West Papua: Mass arrests and houses burning over death of two officers

by Allanah Leahy – EM TV Online

Mass arrests have been made throughout the village of Utikini in West Papua over the killing of two Indonesian mobile brigade officers, West Papuan activist leader Benny Wenda told The Guardian Australia.

Wenda said dozens of homes were burnt down last week; over 100 people were arrested, including women and some children. Most of the arrested were released but some are still reportedly detained, while remaining villagers have retreated further into the mountains, according to the activist.

“Yesterday [Monday] I got a phone call, many of them are hiding and some of them have run away – the women and children and elderly people,” he told The Guardian Australia.

Indonesian daily The Jakarta Post reported the arrest of only 13 people last week Friday over their alleged involvement in the shooting of two mobile brigade officers on New Year’s Day.

“A joint team of police and military has arrested 13 people, including Nelson Waker, [last week] Tuesday,” Papua Police Inspector General Yotje Mende told Antara news agency last Wednesday. Two of the arrested were being treated in hospital.

General Yotje said the 13 people arrested were behind the shooting of the two mobile brigade officers, as well as the wounding of a security officer from PT Freeport Indonesia.

Wenda told The Guardian Australia that Indonesia’s response to the mobile officers’ shootings was significantly speedier than their response to the five dead and 21 injured protestors in Paniai last month. The protestors were allegedly shot by the Indonesian military.

“It was mostly high school students [who] were killed by Indonesia special force,” Wenda said. “Indonesia police and military don’t want to admit it. Five students were killed by Indonesia and no-one brought justice – the Indonesia police can’t find the perpetrator.”

On Monday, Amnesty International urged for a thorough and impartial investigation into the Paniai killings, as well as all the other investigations, with the findings made public. This was aimed at the new investigation team formed last Wednesday by the National Human Rights Commission (Kommas HAM) to look into the security forces’ use of lethal force against protestors in Paniai.

Amnesty International also said that under international law and standards, law enforcement officials are to use force only when strictly necessary and to the extent of the legitimate law enforcement objective.

This means firearms must only be used in defence against an imminent threat of death or serious injury.

“According to the commission’s initial findings, the security forces had used live ammunition and firearms in dispersing the crowd, but there was no evidence that the crowd presented any threat to security personnel,” Amnesty International’s statement read.

“Amnesty International has documented numerous cases of human rights violations by Indonesian security forces in Papua and other parts of the country that have been swept under the rug with no investigations or prosecutions.

“The new administration, under President Joko Widodo must reverse this trend with the Paniai case and signal an end to the climate of impunity.”

An Amnesty International campaigner, Josef Benedict spoke to The Guardian Australia about Indonesia’s justice system, which allows long periods of detainment for questioning.

“Obviously Amnesty would also be concerned around the treatment of people being questioned. This is something we have seen in other incidents, particularly to elicit confessions.”

Benedict called for assurances from Indonesia that those detained receive fair treatment and access to lawyers.

Vice reports that West Papua is a valuable strategic asset for Indonesia as it is home to Grasberg Mine, which is a major palm oil producer and the world’s largest known deposit of gold.

Meanwhile, news of Member of the European Parliament, Molly Scott Cato joining the International Parliamentarians for West Papua was announced through a major West Papua campaign Facebook page. The number of members is now nearing 100.

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