Jan 13, 2015

West Papua: Lack of Basic Protection from Indonesian Security Forces

In the beginning of December 2014, military and police officers opened fire onto a crowd of peaceful demonstrators and killed 6 Papuans and injured 22 others. Indonesian authorities blamed the Free Papua Movement (OPM), as the Indonesian Government was unwilling to be held responsible or launch a proper impartial investigation. Meanwhile, recent arrests of Papuans and the subsequent torture of some of those arrested further illustrate the inadequate protection for and serious mistreatment of the indigenous minority by the authorities.

Below is an article published by Pacific Scoop;

Six Papuans were killed and at least 22 others suffered injuries as a result of indiscriminate shootings by military and police officers on 8 December 2014 in Enarotali district in Paniai regency. Security forces fired into a crowd of around 800 peaceful demonstrators who were performing a traditional Papuan waita dance in protest of the torture of a 13-year-old boy by Special Military Team Unit Batallion 753 (Oknum Tim Khusus Batalyon 753, Timsus 753) officers the previous day. Timsus 753 military officers were also responsible of the documented torture of two Papuans in May 2010. This brutal treatment of children by State security forces in open and public spaces is particularly alarming and sums up the entrenched culture of impunity in Papua.

Without conducting a thorough, independent and impartial investigation, Indonesian military officials gave what one analyst called a “classic response” by shifting blame for the 8 December 2014 shootings on the Free Papua Movement (Operasi Papua Merdeka, OPM). In another response, dismissed by Papuan community leaders as fabrications, Tedjo Edhy Purdijatno, the Coordinating Minister for Politics, Law and Security told Indonesian media outlets that the shootings had already been dealt with in the customary manner, by performing an indigenous ritual of bakar batu. These responses seriously call into question the political will of Indonesian authorities to seek accountability and transparency for what has come to be known as ‘Bloody Paniai.’

While President Joko Widodo stated that a fact-finding team would be formed, it remains to be seen if it would be a joint inquiry consisting of the army, police, the National Commission of Human Rights (Komisi Nasional Hak Asasi Manusia, Komnas HAM), and traditional Papuan leaders, in accordance with the recommendations of Komnas HAM. The importance of such a joint inquiry would be to ensure that military personnel responsible could be questioned and therefore held to account. Political and human rights analysts have speculated that the 8 December 2014 shootings may have been fuelled by an emboldened military following the announcement of Jokowi’s support for a new regional military command (Komando Daerah Militer, Kodam) in Papua. Long-standing violations by the Indonesian military in Papua, perpetuated by a culture of impunity, suggest that such plans are incompatible with Jokowi’s earlier pledges of protecting human rights in Papua. On 27 December [2014], tens of demonstrators in Jayapura were arrested for protesting the planned visit of President Jokowi. The demonstrators, along with other Papuan civil society groups, rejected Jokowi’s visit in response to Bloody Paniai.

In a separate case in Puncak Illaga in Mimika regency this month, at least 26 Papuans were arrested and ill-treated, some of whom were tortured. This case echo three other cases reported in 2014: the Nimbokrang arrests in August, the Sasawa arrests in February and Bloody Yotefa in July. In these cases, security forces continue to target ordinary Papuan civilians with excessive use of force and indiscriminate arrests in a bid to collectively punish indigenous Papuan communities for violent acts committed by other criminal individuals and groups. Such violent reprisal attacks highlight the lack of basic protection afforded to indigenous Papuans against atrocities committed by Indonesian state security forces.

One of the detainees in the Pisugi Elections Boycott case, Yosep Siep, has been hospitalised due to pains endured as a result of torture faced on arrest. Court hearings for the five Pisugi detainees have been repeatedly postponed due to the difficulty of obtaining witness testimonies in court. In Nabire, ten West Papua National Committee (Komite Nasional Papus Barat, KNPB) members were released after more than a month in detention, reportedly due to the lack of evidence to bring them to trial.