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Families accuse Widodo of Papua shooting cover-up

Indonesian president has broken promise to look into deaths of four students two years ago, they say

Benny Mawel, Jayapura

Benny Mawel, Jayapura

Updated: December 09, 2016 09:23 AM GMT
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Families accuse Widodo of Papua shooting cover-up

Two men shout as they sit inside a police truck after being arrested during a protest by mostly university students from the Free Papua Organization and the Papua Student Alliance in Jakarta on Dec. 1. Papuan activists have accused Indonesian President Joko Widodo of not doing enough to honor a pledge to resolve a case in which four students were shot dead by soldiers in Papua two years ago. (Photo AFP)

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Activists and families of four Papuan high school students shot dead two years ago have accused Indonesian President Joko Widodo of failing to fulfill his promise to seek justice for the victims.

Soldiers allegedly shot the students near the military and police headquarters in Paniai, Papua, on Dec. 8, 2014.

They and dozens of other people were marching on the headquarters to protest against a beating meted out earlier in the day by soldiers on several students, following an argument the day before.

Seventeen other people were wounded in the shootings.

Widodo promised families of the victims he would look into the shootings and other rights abuses in the region during a high-profile visit to Jayapura to celebrate Christmas with the Papuans on Dec. 27, 2014.

"Two years have passed but nothing has happened," said Peneas Lokbere coordinator of Papuan Solidarity of Victims of Human Rights Violations.

Lokbere was speaking at a gathering at Cendrawasih University in Jayapura to commemorate the second anniversary of the shootings.

Widodo has failed to keep his promise, said Lokbere.

Lokbere said the government last year established an ad hoc committee to investigate the shootings, but the probe had achieved nothing.

Earlier this year, Luhut Binsar Panjaitan, former coordinating minister for politics, law and human rights, formed a special team and promised to resolve matters before the year's end, but there are no signs of any progress, he said.

"[The committees] are empty promises for political purposes," said Anum Latifa Siregar, from the Democracy Alliance for Papua group.

"They were meant to mislead Papuans and persuade them not to seek international attention," she said.

Bernard Koten, advocacy coordinator of Franciscan Justice Peace and Integrity of Creation said the families have already turned to international bodies for help.

According to media reports, the families appealed in October to the United Nations, the World Council of Churches, Asia Pacific Nations, and international human rights groups, to bring pressure to bear on Indonesia over the shootings.

"We are also working with Franciscans International to bring the Pania shooting case before the United Nations," said Koten.

Franciscans International is an organization with consultative status at the United Nations.

Ones Suhuniap, general secretary of the National Committee for West Papua said the Indonesian government has no intention of looking into the shootings or address human rights abuses in Papua in general.

Jakarta will never stop committing crimes in the region, he said.

"The only solution is through a referendum. Papuans must determine their own future," he said.

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