Why are we focusing on stopping foreign government support for the Indonesian police?

The Indonesian police kill, jail, torture and beat ordinary Papuans, often for no other reason than being black and identifying as Papuan (see for instance Amnesty International Indonesia 2018). This pattern was established at the very start of the Indonesian state’s occupation of West Papua which began on 1 May 1963 and has continued to the present day. Successive reports by the International Coalition for Papua, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Tapol, and their Papuan partners, all clearly establish that the Indonesian security forces have become an obstacle to peace with justice in West Papua.

In the post-Suharto era the main perpetrator of human rights abuses in West Papua has shifted from the military to the police. In their recent report, ‘Don’t Bother, Just Let Him Die’, Amnesty International Indonesia (2018) reports that in 69 cases of suspected extra-judicial killings that they investigated in West Papua, with a total of 95 victims, the Indonesian National Police (INP) were responsible for 34 cases, while in 23 cases the military was the perpetrator, and in 11 cases both security forces were involved. One case involved the Municipal Police.

What makes the problem of police violence in West Papua worse, is that the INP receives substantial aid from foreign governments including the European Union, the United Kingdom, the United States of America, the Canadian Government, the Australian Government and the New Zealand government. These governments strengthen the INP’s capacity to engage in repression in West Papua through training, intelligence, selling arms and other equipment, joint operations, and direct funding. This foreign government support, coupled with turning away from, and keeping quiet about repressive policing in Papua, legitimises police operations in West Papua when both the police, and the military, are widely perceived by West Papuans to be an illegitimate, violent and racist occupying force. The prize, is of course, a share in corporate exploitation of West Papua’s resource wealth and market share in an expanding Indonesian economy.

Do you want to stop all aid to the Indonesian National Police?


Then what do you want?

We want to stop all aid to the Indonesian police in West Papua. Why? Because the INP have become a violent occupying force. They do not serve or protect West Papuans. They kill, beat, jail and torture the West Papuan people simply because they are black and want to be free. While that continues to happen, we don’t think foreign governments should fund them.

How widespread is police violence in West Papua?

Human rights violations by the INP, known as POLRI (Polisi Republik Indonesia – in Indonesian), is systemic and systematic, occurring in all parts of West Papua. The Indonesian government, and by extension the INP, fundamentally do not trust West Papuans. They believe West Papuans are inferior, that West Papua is rightfully theirs as a former Dutch colony, and that it is their right to enforce their will on the population through violence.

So, what we can do?

The first step is getting more information. Holding foreign government’s accountable for their role in strengthening the capacity of repressive policing in West Papua is made difficult by the fact that there is little detailed public information about the size and nature of support, and negligible oversight of foreign government resourcing of the INP in West Papua. Public advocacy campaigns can change that. Propping up death squads is best done in the dark. Shining a light into that is the first step.

Yeah but how likely is it that ordinary people can make a difference?

Ordinary people always make a difference. That is why East Timor is free, the Berlin Wall came down, apartheid ended in South Africa and women have the vote. And remember there have been other campaigns that have successfully constrained the Indonesian security forces. For example, the campaign to halt IMET funding in the United States during the Indonesian government occupation of East Timor and the recent campaign to suspend New Zealand Government support for the Community Policing program in West Papua are examples of successful campaigns that advocates can learn from. But first, human right defenders need to analyse the kinds of support provided by foreign governments to the INP and how that is related to state violence in West Papua.

How do foreign governments support the INP?

There is much they are not telling us but two prominent forms of foreign aid to the INP that we do know about are the Joint Centre for Law Enforcement Cooperation (JCLEC) and the establishment of Special Detachment 88, also known as D88. JCLEC was established in Semarang, Java in 2004 following a bilateral agreement between the Australian and Indonesian governments. Officially it is touted as an international police training centre but 90% of all students are Indonesian, drawn from all parts of the police including the paramilitary Mobile Police Brigade (BRIMOB) and counter-terrorism specialists D88, who comprise 9% of all participants (Cordell 2012b). Trainers and educators are from Australia, Europe and the UK. According to investigative journalist Marni Cordell, core finding comes directly from the Australian Federal Police’s own budget. According to the official JCLEC website international police departments from countries such as Canada, Denmark and the United Kingdom also actively support the INP. While the INP have certainly played a valuable role in policing terrorism in Indonesia – disrupting Jemaah Islamiyah, for example – Papuan and Indonesian human rights defenders argue that the INP have used their new-found skills to repress nonviolent activists in West Papua. Advocates don’t want to stop foreign government’s relationships with the INP but they do want much greater oversight into the relationship with the INP in West Papua. That brings us to D88.

D88 was formed by the Indonesian, Australian and United States governments in the wake of the 2002 Bali bombings. It is an elite counter-terrorism unit within the INP. These skills have been used to carry out extra-judicial murder and torture of civilians in West Papua, Maluku and elsewhere. Witnesses assert that D88 was responsible for the fatal shooting of six activists at the Third Papuan Congress in 2011 (Cordell 2012a) and for scores of murders of activists since, including Mako Tabuni, a popular leaders of the West Papua National Committee (Scoop 2012; Amnesty International Indonesia 2018). D88’s role in repression spiked under the previous Chief of Police in West Papua, Tito Karnavian who previously commanded D88. Karnavian is now the Chief of the INP. Police violence in West Papua, as the Amnesty International Indonesia report and the work of ICP and its Papuan partners documents, has continued since Karnavian’s departure. Nonviolent groups like the West Papua National Committee (Komite Nasional Papua Barat) and civilian based organisations that comprise a coalition of Papuan groups calling for independence are particularly targeted. However, in many cases the victims are not activists. Even school children are shot dead with impunity. That’s what happened in Paniai in December 2014. See our video ‘Justice for Murdered Children’. In all cases, the perpetrators were not held accountable in civilian courts of law. In some cases, the perpetrators were even promoted.

How will we win?

Foreign governments are avoiding responsibility by covering up the extent to which they support the INP in West Papua and by refusing to participate in the basic and essential development practice of independent monitoring and evaluation. Human rights defenders demand that the human rights impacts and effectiveness of the aid foreign governments provide (citizen taxes) is independently monitored, evaluated, and that the results are made publicly available. This demand is echoed by Amnesty International Indonesia. In their 2018 report into unlawful killings they recommended that the Indonesian Government ‘Conduct a thorough review of police, military and other security forces' tactics in the use of force and firearms, including during public assemblies and arrests, to ensure they meet international standards, in particular the UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials and the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials.’

Internationally, we need to talk about West Papua. Foreign Government support for the Indonesian police in West Papua only makes them more efficient human rights abusers. That is the lesson from East Timor. The UK, EU, USA, Canadian, New Zealand, and Australian Governments are hiding the costs of assistance to the INP in terms of human lives. This is possible because of widespread ignorance about West Papua in general and the police program in particular. Join Make West Papua Safe to change that.


Amnesty International Indonesia. 2018. ‘‘Don’t Bother, Just Let Him Die’: Killing with Impunity in Papua, , accessed 8 May 2019.
Cordell, Marni. 2012a. ‘Australia Is Policing Separatism’. New Matilda. , accessed 8 May 2019.
Cordell, Marni. 2012b. ‘Our Money Helps Kill, Intimidate and Torture’. New Matilda. , accessed 8 May 2019.