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Indonesia under fire over 95 unlawful Papua killings

Rights group report should prompt Jakarta to acknowledge and end abuses, Catholic activists say
Indonesia under fire over 95 unlawful Papua killings

A Papuan student screams as he is taken down by Indonesian police while trying to join a human rights protest at a student dormitory in Yogyakarta in July 2016. Amnesty International has accused security forces of unlawfully killing at least 95 Papuans since 2010. (Photo by Suryo Wibowo/AFP)

Published: July 03, 2018 09:00 AM GMT
Updated: July 03, 2018 09:17 AM GMT

A report from an international human rights group documenting the unlawful killings of 95 people since 2010 by Indonesian security forces is a wake-up call for President Joko Widodo to heed his own promise to end rights abuses in Papua, Catholic activists say.

A separatist conflict has simmered in the restive region since it became part of Indonesia after a widely disputed U.N. referendum in 1969. Reports of abuses have emerged ever since that prompted Widodo to pledge to end such abuses during his election campaign, but activists say they still continue.

In its report, released on July 2, Amnesty International documented at least 95 deaths in 69 incidents between January 2010 and February 2018.

Of those, 39 occurred during peaceful political activities such as demonstrations or raising the "Morning Star" flag, which symbolizes the province's independence movement. Others were killed while taking part in peaceful, non-political activities.

"Many of the killings were the result of unnecessary or excessive use of force and none of them has been subject to an independent criminal investigation," said Usman Hamid, Amnesty Indonesia executive director in Jakarta.

In one case, a mentally disabled man was killed after he hit a police officer with a piece of sugar cane.

The report slammed President Joko Widodo for failing to fulfil his promise to improve the human rights situation in Papua when he took office in 2014.

"The culture of impunity within the security forces must change and those responsible for past deaths be held to account," said Hamid.

Father John Djonga, a prominent rights activist in Papua, said the report backs up stories of abuses in Papua that were often denied by the government.

"The report is the most concrete evidence confirming lack of progress in human rights enforcement in Papua," he said.

It is also a call for the Indonesian government to respond and stop similar practices, he added.

"The potential for repeating this violence is huge because President Widodo has not taken a different approach than before," Father Djonga said.

Yuliana Langowuyo, deputy director of the Franciscan commission for justice, peace, and integrity of creation, said the government has to look at these cases and be transparent in the process.

Results must be made available to the public, she said.

The government responded by saying it would look into the cases detailed in the rights group's report.

"We [need] to explain who and how, whether [the people were killed] in operations or not. We will look at it case by case," Wiranto, the coordinating minister of political, legal and security affairs, told reporters.

The minister, who like many Indonesians goes by only one name, warned against looking at the report as being completely accurate.

"Don't be careless [by just believing all the data]," he said.

Papua has a total population of 3 million, 65 percent of whom are Protestant, 17 percent Catholic, 15 percent Muslim, while the remainder are mostly Hindus and Buddhists.

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