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Rights group slams shooting of two Papuan 'refugees'

Army claims pair were separatists shot dead when confronted at a checkpoint

Rights group slams shooting of two Papuan 'refugees'

Indonesian soldiers attend a briefing at a military base in Papua in this file photo. (Photo: Bay Ismoyo/AFP)

Amnesty International Indonesia has condemned the killing of two Papuan refugees by the military in Papua province’s Nduga district.

Elias Karunggu and his son Selu Karunggu, 20, were shot dead by soldiers after being stopped and interrogated at a checkpoint on July 18, according to witnesses.

The military commander in Papua, General Gusti Nyoman Suriastawa, confirmed the shooting but told local media that the men were part of an armed Papuan separatist group.

He said both were mingling among refugees heading to Kenyam, the district's main town, to look for a place to stay.

They resisted when confronted by soldiers, he said, adding they had a gun and cash amounting to 9 million rupiah (US$642).

Witnesses said the weapon was an ax used to cut away foliage in a jungle area where they had been living.  

Amnesty International Indonesia insisted that the pair were civilians who had fled their village in the district on Dec. 2, 2018, after armed separatists shot dead 20 people, including a soldier, who were constructing a bridge in the area.

Thousands of civilians, including the Karunggu family, fled their homes when the Indonesian army conducted a sweep against the rebels. Thousands sought shelter in nearby jungles where many remain.

“The shooting of two Papuans by security people shows the state’s repressive acts in Papua,” Usman Hamid, director of Amnesty International Indonesia, said in a statement.

“This is a brutal act and a human rights abuse,” he said. “We called for an immediate, thorough and impartial investigation of the case.”

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Hamid called for the shooters to be tried in an open civilian court and not a military one.

“Bringing this case before a military court would mean the state failing to fulfill an international obligation to protect the human rights of every citizen,” he told UCA News.

Amnesty reported at least 69 cases of alleged extrajudicial killings by security forces in Papua since January 2010 to February 2018, in which 95 civilians died.

Emanuel Gobay, director of the Legal Aid Institution in Papua, said all the pair were doing was trying to look for a place to stay in Kenyam because they were sick and tired of living in the jungle.

He said about 40,000 people from villages in Nduga district fled into forests, while others — mostly women and children — were living in tents erected by non-profit groups.

“The National Human Rights Commission must go to Nduga and investigate this shocking incident,” Gobay said. 

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