Apriza Pinandita, Jakarta – Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called for an independent investigation into the recent murder of a New Zealander Freeport employee by members of an armed group in Mimika regency, Papua
Graeme Thomas Wall, an employee of gold and copper mining company PT Freeport Indonesia, was shot dead by gunmen in Timika last week.
Two of Wall's colleagues, Jibril Wahar and Yosephine, were admitted to Tembagapura Hospital with serious injuries, while four other people sustained minor injuries and were treated in the office.
HRW researcher Andreas Harsono said that while Indonesian police should investigate the attack and bring the perpetrators to account, he was worried about a potential violation of the rights of ordinary Papuans.
"The New Zealand police should offer to send a team to help the Indonesian investigators. A criminal investigation in a place such as Timika, with numerous competing political and business interests, is best carried out by an independent investigative team removed from local issues," Andreas said.
As well as investigating this latest killing swiftly, Andreas said that the Indonesian government should also allow independent journalists, including from New Zealand's media, to enter Papua without the region's highly restrictive travel permit, so that they can freely investigate and report on this crime, he added.
Although the Papua Police initially focused their investigation on an armed gang commanded by a person named Joni Botak, separatist group the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB) has claimed responsibility for the shooting.
Papua has been the hotbed of separatism for years and armed groups, which authorities say operate in several regencies in the province, are reported to have been behind numerous violent incidents in the region.
Earlier this month, the police said some 790 people fled their homes in mountainous areas around the Freeport mining site to take refuge at the Tembagapura Police headquarters in Timika over fears of an armed criminal group, which had reportedly terrorized the villagers.
Security authorities previously reported that armed groups had been shooting at Indonesian Military (TNI) and police guard posts. The residents' access to basic needs, such as food and health care, had reportedly been restricted by armed men who blocked roads.
Authorities also claimed the locals were still traumatized from their previous encounter with the armed group in November 2017, when its members blocked access into and out of several villages.