WPAT condemns Indonesian violence targeting West Papuan demonstrators
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WPAT condemns Indonesian violence targeting West Papuan demonstrators

contact: Ed McWIliams, edmcw @ msn.com, +1-401-636-7319

November 29, 2013 - The West Papua Advocacy Team (WPAT) strongly condemns ongoing Indonesian security force violence targeting peaceful West Papuan demonstrators. That police orchestrated violence, which has led to at least one civilian death and many injuries, comes on the eve of annual Papuan celebration of the Papuan national flag, December 1. WPAT sources in West Papua described police conduct as "especially arrogant and violent." Statements by security force officials, including the National Police Chief, warn of further violence associated with expected December 1 demonstrations.

Photo from West Papua Media.  

The West Papua Advocacy Team calls on the U.S. Government to vigorously condemn the ongoing security force campaign of violence and intimidation in West Papua. WPAT also calls on the U.S. Government specifically to urge the Indonesian government to act to restrain its security forces in dealing with peaceful December 1 demonstrations in accordance with international guarantees of freedom of speech and assembly to which the Indonesian government is obligated. WPAT notes that the provocative police conduct may be intended to create an atmosphere of insecurity so as to forestall the expected visit of Melanesian foreign ministers to examine first hand the plight of Papuans.


Indonesian authorities in West Papua assaulted peaceful Papuan demonstrators on November 26, reportedly killing one and inflicting four gunshot wounds. (see Shootings, killings, beatings, arrests as Hundreds flee to jungle after Indon Police open fire on peaceful KNPB demo)

The Jayapura shooting victim, Matthius Tengget, an activist with the West Papua National Committee (Komite Nasional Papua Barat, KNPB), died of his wounds in custody. However, his body was subsequently retrieved after it was dumped into a lake, allegedly by those members of the Brimob paramilitary police units who shot him.


This latest incident falls within a repeated pattern of the use of excessive and lethal force by Indonesian police against peaceful activists in West Papua which is indicative of a broader state policy. Continued impunity for the police involved is unacceptable and the failure to punish gives rise to command and state responsibility," Robinson said.

According to a statement from KNPB General Chairman Victor Yeimo, currently in Abepura prison, "KNPB and family members of the victims are also looking for four other KNPB members that are missing: their whereabouts are unknown or their bodies have not yet been found."

According to WPAT source and media reports, the police in Jayapura opened fire November 26 on an estimated 500 Papuans who were peacefully celebrating the opening of an office of the KNPB in Papua New Guinea. West Papua Media reports 15 Papuans are in serious condition in hospitals with various wounds as a result of the police operation in Jayapura. Peaceful demonstrations organized by the KPNB took place in many parts of West Papua at the end of November. Most were met with police violence. Police in Timika arrested 31 demonstrators and three in Sorong. A very large demonstration in Wamena passed peacefully, apparently because the demonstrators vastly outnumbered the police who had gathered to block the demonstration. The police violence November 26 followed police arrests of 16 Papuans who were peacefully handing out leaflets on November 25. In the wake of the new security force violence many Papuans, according to West Papua Media have fled their home and sought refuge in the forests.

Reports to WPAT from West Papua also indicate that in recent days journalists have suffered intimidation by security forces.

International Lawyer Jennifer Robinson, Convener of the International Lawyers for West Papua and currently meeting in PNG, told West Papua Media that "This use of excessive force against KNPB members is in breach of international law and Indonesia's own police regulations on the use of force.... This latest incident falls within a repeated pattern of the use of excessive and lethal force by Indonesian police against peaceful activists in West Papua which is indicative of a broader state policy. Continued impunity for the police involved is unacceptable and the failure to punish gives rise to command and state responsibility," Robinson said.

For its part Amnesty International has condemned the police violence and expressed concern about ill treatment of those placed in custody in connection with the police action.

"Amnesty International is concerned about allegations that police ill-treated protesters involved in a pro-independence protest in Papua as well as intimidated journalists who were covering it. On 26 November, police arrested at least 28 political activists including three women who participated in a pro-independence protest in Wamena, Jayapura organized by the KNPB. According to a human rights lawyer who saw them in detention at the Jayapura City police station, there were indications that they had been beaten after they were arrested. Some of the detainees had bruises or swelling on their mouth, eyes, forehead and body. At least 12 people are still in police custody."

The growing violence in West Papua appears to have been orchestrated to coincide with the late November visit there of the new National Police Commander Sutarman. Gen. Sutarman has made explicit in his threats to Papuan activists telling the media that "We will take firm action against groups or individuals wanting to separate Papua from Indonesia because Papua is part of Indonesia."

Indonesian security authority attempts to intimidate Papuans have focused significantly on the KNPB. Tabloid Jubi reported November 26 that Papua Deputy Police Chief Waterpauw, on the eve of the police crackdown in West Papua, denied KNPB the right to freedom of expression, permanently. "I made it clear to the KNPB, immediately stop the steps that are likely to violence. Whatever the form of their intention and desire to perform activities in public hearings, (it) will never be given permission or recommendation to implement it , because we know the purpose of the organisation and their desire is clear, (they) want to form a state , split off and so on. "

The wave of police violence comes on the eve of what are expected to be commemorations of "Flag Day" across West Papua as Papuans celebrate by raising the Morning Star (Bintang Kejora) flag for the first time, December 1 1961. Sutarman warned that “The Bintang Kejora flag raising ceremony on Dec. 1 is forbidden, and those involved will be dealt with seriously."

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