Papuan bishop calls for police accountability over shooting

One villager was shot dead and many more wounded reportedly by Indonesian police
Papuan bishop calls for police accountability over shooting

Papuans hold a vigil in Jayapura, the capital city of Papua province on Aug. 5 to show solidarity for the victims of a shooting in Deyiai district. (Photo supplied)

The shooting death of a Papuan villager and the wounding of at least seven others allegedly by Indonesian police has been condemned by a Catholic bishop who fears such acts will continue because security forces in the province act with impunity.

Bishop John Philip Saklil of Timika criticized police for allegedly opening fire on indigenous Papuans in Deyiai district, Aug. 1 following an altercation between villagers and workers from a construction company.

A 28-year-old man named Yulius Pigai was reportedly killed and up to seven others, including two children, were wounded by the police, said media reports.

"The security forces that should protect, provide a sense of security to the people," have instead created insecurity, said Bishop Saklil.

"The Catholic Church denounces and condemns all forms of violence against humanity, especially such that results in the loss of lives," the bishop said.

Police said they opened fire on rock-throwing protesters using only rubber bullets. The police further stated that the protesters were "running amok" and ignored repeated demands to disperse.

However, the Papuan villagers said police opened fire without warning.

Bishop Saklil said that the attacking of civilians in such a manner is a violation of human rights.

"[The] military and police are not allowed to use war equipment to attack civilians," said the bishop.

He pointed out that "with so many shootings, there was no noticeable change in the security apparatus' attitude" to how they treat Papuans.

Bishop Saklil said security forces act with impunity in Papua and highlighted the case where five Papuan youths in Paniai regency were killed in 2014 — with no one still being held accountable.

"With similar cases that occur continuously and those that are not resolved professionally, it only creates a bad impression that both the police and military are not the protector of the people but the protectors of immoral criminals," said Bishop Saklil.

"With so many shootings, there has been no noticeable change in the attitudes of the security forces," he said.

Natalius Pigai from National Commission on Human Rights and cousin of the victim Yulius Pigai said that they will send an investigation team to Deyiai on Aug. 8.

The violence in Papua will not stop while "the killers are considered a hero for defending Indonesia," he said.

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"If this mindset is maintained, such cases will occur again in the future," he said.

Boy Rafli Amar, the Papua police chief told reporters in Jayapura, that a team of police have joined with the National Commission on Human Rights to further investigate the shooting.

"We want to see facts and what really happened," said Amar who apologized to the Papuans, especially the families of victims. He said the officers involved in the shooting have had their weapons confiscated.

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