Subject: Komnas HAM to Launch Papua Rights Probe
The Jakarta Post Friday, July 25, 2008
Rights body to launch Papua abuse probe
The National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) will launch an investigation into alleged human rights violations in Papua, despite protests from the Attorney General's Office (AGO).
M. Ridha Saleh, the commission's deputy chairman, said the rights body was completing preliminary research into cases of atrocities that took place between 1963 and 2002. He said the result of the study would be presented at a plenary meeting next month to decide whether a field investigation was warranted.
"We are of the same view about the urgency of the investigation, because of the numerous reports of violence we received," Ridha said.
"The Papua conflicts are a burden on the nation's history."
Despite the province's special autonomy status, which allows it to rake in trillions of rupiah in revenue, demands for investigations into past rights abuses continue to be made.
Past military operations in Papua gave rise to reports of mass arrests, detentions, torture, disappearances and killings of local residents, amid an atmosphere of repression.
The influx of migrants from other parts of the country exacerbated the situation, with the newcomers quickly taking control of the province's economic resources and creating a considerable wealth gap.
Ridha said once established, the ad hoc team would focus on alleged atrocities in Timika and Biak, and would collect first-hand data through interviews with survivors, families of victims and witnesses, as well as excavations of victims' graves.
Papuan priest Karel Phil Erari urged the commission to concentrate on the quality of the investigation, because the number of victims remained uncertain.
"It's not about the number of victims, but how to convince the public and the government crimes against humanity really took place in Papua," he said.
Muridan S. Widjojo, a researcher at the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), called on the commission to investigate the role of non-state parties, including separatist rebel groups and foreign institutions, in alleged rights abuses.
"Most people tend to focus on state parties, such as the military and police. They overlook the role of non-state parties, such as militia groups, rebel groups, unidentified military personnel, civilians and outsiders," he said.
Muridan claimed this resulted in biased and unbalanced reports. He added LIPI investigations found non-state parties organized and initiated much of the violence, including 43 attacks perpetrated by separatist rebels between 1965 and 1989.
Marwan Effendy, deputy attorney general for special crimes, acknowledged the AGO and the rights commission held different views on past rights abuse cases.
"What the AGO wants are legally recognized facts and physical evidence, not just reports and assumptions," he said.
"People can say this or that, but where is the proof?"