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Indonesian Shooting Rampage In West Papua

Indonesian Defence Minister visits Australia after Indonesian security forces go on shooting rampage in West Papua

One teenage student is in hospital in a serious condition after being shot in the stomach when Indonesian security forces went on a shooting rampage against local people in the Paniai Lakes region of West Papua two weeks ago. The human rights violation coincides with the visit of Indonesian Defence Minister Sudarsono who is in Australia to attend the East Asia Dialogue Forum. The report from the remote region of Paniai demonstrates the disastrous role that Indonesian combat troops and paramilitary police are having throughout West Papua.

The shooting rampage by the Indonesian security forces was sparked when local people demonstrated outside a local Police station on the 10th of March 2008. Indigenous residents of the remote highland town of Enarotali [1], about 120 km inland of the coastal city of Nabire, gathered at the police station after Police beat a local civil servant, Yavet Pigai.

Local human rights workers at the scene report that the police were supported by Indonesian military forces from the Koramil (district headquarters) and Tim Khusus (Army Special Services). These military forces were described as combat troops from outside the province.

Police and Military personnel are reported to have opened fire on the group. Local sources said the military and Brimob (Police Mobile Brigade) continued shooting for two hours. One report said hundreds of troops were involved and that local people, some of who had been wounded had fled into the forests.

"Our sources described the incident as a terrifying experience for local people. It was clearly an action to intimidate local people and show that the Indonesian police and military were the authority in the region" said Matthew Jamieson on behalf of the Institute for Papuan Advocacy & Human Rights (IPAHR).

A total of 9 local people were reportedly wounded. The names of two young men were given to IPAHR by these local sources, both of whom were described as students. Mangki Pigai (aged 18 years) was taken to hospital in a serious condition after a bullet lodged in his stomach. Another student, John Pigome (aged 20 years) was beaten by Police and sustained serious head injuries consistent with being beaten with a gun.

The incident was sparked after Mr. Yavet Pigai, the civil servant, was knocked off his motorbike by an excavator working on road works near a village called Mogokobitadimi.[2] At the time of the incident Mr Pagai, who works for the District Government of Paniai was travelling to a meeting at the local government office in the town of Madi.

Mr. Yavet Pigai was then beaten by police on the road and taken to the police station at Enarotali where he was beaten again. Mr. Pigai sustained injuries to his face and back.

Police and Army personnel had been supervising the work of a road building contractor. The incident is believed to be related to local opposition to road building business in the Paniai region, which are supported by the security forces.

It was reported by Human Rights sources that Paniai's head of the regional administration Mr. Naftali Yogi told a press conference that the police and army "must apology to the local people and reflect on what they have done". Mr. Yogi said that, "the police and army should take full of the responsibility on the incident because the case was a simple one but the security forces took a very serious action on trying to kill innocent people there".

In a report tabled at the most recent session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (2008), the Catholic Office of Justice and Peace in Jayapura (SKP) reported 242 documented individual cases of torture and ill treatment by the security forces in West Papua since 1998.

In the course of their human rights investigations SKP found that most of the human rights violations were committed by the police or military were outside of police or military custody.

SKP said that most documented cases were not prosecuted. The only case of torture that was brought to trial was after the Abepura case in 2000 in which the two (Brimob) police officers who charged were acquitted.

Finally, SKP found that the use of torture and cruel and degrading treatment by the security forces towards the Indigenous population was both widespread and formed a culture of violence and racism embedded within the security forces.

Matthew Jamieson, spokesperson for Institute for Papuan Advocacy and Human Rights stated today that, "the shooting in Paniai follows the common pattern of indiscriminate violence against indigenous West Papuans. There is virtual legal impunity from prosecution for police and military forces involved in Human Rights abuses. Indonesian forces are stationed throughout West Papua, right down to the village level. The policy of stationing large numbers of combat troops and paramilitary police in every region is proving calamitous for indigenous West Papuans."

"There are reports of both police and military at all levels of the command chain being involved legal and illegal business activities. In the Paniai Lakes region this includes road building and construction industries, logging, illegal wildlife rackets and goldmining. These business operations give the security forces a vested interest in generating conflict in order to justify their continued presence in the troubled territory."

"The presence of senior commanding officers in West Papua, such as Burhanuddin Siagian, who have been indicted for 'Crimes Against Humanity' in East Timor, reinforces the culture of violence and impunity within the Indonesian security forces. "

Reports of police and military violence in Enarotali come in the wake of widespread nonviolent demonstrations in Jayapura, Manokwari, Serui and Sorong protesting the Indonesian government's decision to ban the Morning Star flag. Several West Papuan leaders arrested in these demonstrations are in custody facing charges of rebellion and subversion.

Notes:

[1] The Indigenous Mee people of the Paniai Lakes region sustain a large population through intensive agriculture based around pigs and sweet potato. The group has suffered greatly during Indonesian rule in West Papua with many thousands of people killed by Indonesian security forces, especially during the 1960s and 1970s. In recent years the main Indonesian government development has been road building to link Enarotali and the interior with the coastal port city of Nabire. The Paniai region is highly prospective for minerals and is adjacent to the Freeport McMoRan/Rio Tinto gold and copper mine, which has been conducting exploration in the region.

[2] There has been a recent history of human rights violations and community decent associated with road building. In January 2006 a young boy, Moses Douw, was shot dead in the community market on his way to school in the village of Wahgette. On three young local people were shot by the military after local people had protested about issues related to road building.

ENDS

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