Indonesian bishop seeks justice for killings in restive Papua

Soldiers accused of opening fire on graduation party at church compound
Indonesian Bishop John Philip Saklil of Timika in Indonesia's Papua province accused the military and police of carrying out violent attacks on civilians in the conflict-prone region, calling security personnel "protectors of immoral criminals".

"Based on our record, there are a number of violent incidents being brutally committed by members of the Indonesian military and police in our ecclesiastical area," the bishop said in a statement sent to on Sept. 2.

Bishop Saklil referred to five specific acts of violence that occurred between December and August. None of the incidents were properly investigated by the military or police, he said.

The latest violence happened Aug. 28 when two soldiers allegedly opened fire on a graduation party being held inside a church compound in Timika, killing two people and injuring five.

According to the bishop's statement, the soldiers had tried to enter the party earlier in the evening, but were blocked by parish security personnel. They later returned, allegedly enraged and drunk, according to the bishop's statement.

The soldiers entered the church compound and pointed their weapons at members of the congregation before opening fire. Killed in the attack were Imanuel Herman Mairimau, 23, and Yulianus Okoware, 23, both Catholics. The pair were buried Aug. 30 following a funeral Mass in St. Francis Mission Station in Timika.    

Local media reported that several suspects were arrested, but Bishop Saklil raised doubts that the military can be trusted to investigate themselves.



The bishop said military and police commanders lacked the "good will" to perform a transparent investigation. The police and military are "protectors of immoral criminals, instead of protectors of people," he said.

"Whatever the reason is, attacking civilians by using the state apparatus is surely a violation against human rights," Bishop Saklil said.

Army spokesman Brig. Gen. Wuryanto told local media that the Timika military police were investigating the most recent killings.

"We will ensure that the military court law will be strictly imposed on any soldier proven guilty," he said.

However, in a Sept. 1 statement, the Jakarta-based Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence said that the military court lacks the transparency and accountability to conduct a fair investigation that offers justice to the victims.

Father Amandus Rahaded of Timika, who celebrated the funeral Mass for Mairimau and Okoware, also demanded transparency into the murder investigation.

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"The legal process must be transparent. Everyone must know about the ongoing legal process," he told

Father Rahaded said the violent incidents were initially investigated, but eventually "faded away."

"So now people feel hopeless," he said.

Papua has been beset by a decades-long conflict over Indonesia's takeover of the region following the withdrawal of the Dutch colonial administration in 1962. The guerrilla Free Papua Movement has led a low-level insurgency against Indonesia, marked by sporadic clashes and crackdowns on the Papuan people.



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