Subject: Papua Shootings: 4 May Be Dead in 'Reprisal' Attack by Indon Security Forces

Also: Australia sends Papuan refugees to distant island detention camp

Australian Associated Press Saturday, January 21, 2006

update: 'Reprisal' Attack Leaves Four Dead

INDONESIAN security forces shot dead four teenagers walking to school in the troubled province of Papua, including a close relative of an activist who fled to Australia this week, an Indonesian human rights group has said.

Indonesian authorities say just one person was shot dead and two others injured. Benny Giay, chairman of the human rights group ELSHAM, told a Sydney newspaper that the students, aged between 13 and 15, were ambushed on their way to school yesterday in what appeared to be an unprovoked attack.

One of the teenagers, Moses Douw, 13, was said to be a close relative of one of the 43 refugees who landed at Cape York on Wednesday in an outrigger that featured a large sign claiming military oppression in Papua.

Yesterday's attack took place at the village of Waghete, which is in a region many of the asylum seekers came from.

A fifth student was injured in the attack and a man was badly beaten, Mr Giay told the Sydney Morning Herald.

Greens Senator Kerry Nettle called for an investigation into the shootings, which she said appeared to be a reprisal for the arrival of the asylum seekers in Australia.

"It is particularly disgusting that it appears the five people shot were school children," she told the Herald.

But Colonel Kertono Wangsadisastra said only one person was killed and another two were injured.

He said the shooting occurred during a clash between police and security forces and a group of more than 100 people outside a police station.

"The civilians got angry and started beating the police and soldiers. Then the shooting occurred," he said.

West Papua National Association spokesman Nick Chesterfield also called the shooting a reprisal attack.

"One of the young boys killed was a relative of someone with the same name, who is on Christmas Island at the moment," he said last night.

"They embarrassed the government, and they have finally brought international attention to the issue of West Papua."

The refugees have been sent to Christmas Island for processing by the Australian government.

Democrats Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Natasha Stott Despoja said she was disturbed by the reports.

"This latest violence highlights the ongoing human rights abuses in that region."

She said the Howard government must play a role in ensuring the safety of the asylum seekers and "those in West Papua fearing for their lives".

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Australia sends Papuan refugees to distant island detention camp

SYDNEY, Jan. 20 (AFP) - Australian authorities flew a group of refugees from Indonesia's troubled province of West Papua to a remote Indian Ocean island detention center, sparking protests by refugee rights advocates.

The 43 Papuans, who reportedly include prominent pro-independence activists and their families, arrived on the northern coast of mainland Australia on Wednesday aboard an outrigger canoe in an apparent bid for asylum.

The political nature of their flight from Indonesia was highlighted by a banner strung on their canoe that accused Indonesia of "genocide" in West Papua, a former Dutch colony that Indonesia took over in the 1960s.

The incident threatened to upset delicate Australian-Indonesia relations at a time when the two countries are negotiating a new security treaty that is expected to include a pledge by Canberra not to interfere in provinces like Papua.

After carrying out initial health checks on the Papuans in a town on northern Australia's remote Cape York Thursday, Australian authorities flew the group aboard an air force transport plane overnight to Christmas Island, an Australian territory in the Indian Ocean, the immigration department said.

"The men in the group will be accommodated at the Phosphate Hill Detention Centre, while the women and children will be placed in staff housing," department spokeswoman Sandi Longan said.

Human rights groups and the opposition Labor Party criticised the decision to move the asylum seekers to Christmas Island rather than process their asylum claim on the mainland.

"I don't understand when there's excess capacity at mainland detention centers, why there's a need to take these asylum seekers as far away as possible from the best legal teams," said Tony Burke, immigration spokesman for the Labor Party.

"By all accounts, we're yet to see any argument why these individuals would not be found to be genuine asylum seekers, I can't see why Christmas Island's appropriate in this case," he said.

Australian media reports said Indonesian officials were allowed to meet with the Papuans before they were moved to Christmas Island, but no details of the encounter were made public.

A spokesman for the Indonesian embassy in Canberra earlier said any claim for asylum by the group would be "baseless".

But a foreign ministry spokesman in Jakarta told AFP Thursday that Indonesia was remaining open minded about the incident and wanted to "manage this case well".

Indonesia won sovereignty over Papua, which was then called West Irian, in 1969 after the UN allowed an integration referendum with a public show of hands by a few hundred hand-picked tribal leaders.

The vote was labelled a sham by critics.

Poorly organised separatists have since been fighting a sporadic and ill-armed guerrilla war, amid charges by international human rights groups of widespread abuses by Indonesian military forces.

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Joyo Indonesia News Service
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See Letter to Australia on Papuan Asylum Seekers Timor-Leste National
 


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