By UCA News reporter, Jakarta – Human rights activists including Christians have urged the Indonesian government to explain the use of mortars during airstrikes in Papua as alleged in a report by a London-based think tank.
Conflict Armament Research (CAR) in its report cited by Reuters on June 3 said security forces used Serbian-made mortars during attacks in October last year on eight villages in Papua's Kiwirok district.
Security officers dropped 32 mortar rounds, five of which exploded, damaging public facilities and setting houses on fire during the airstrikes, which were claimed to be in pursuit of armed pro-independence groups.
CAR said the mortars were confirmed to be part of a consignment of 2,500 purchased by the State Intelligence Service (BIN) last year and manufactured by Serbia's state-owned Krusik. They were later modified to be dropped from the air rather than fired from a mortar tube, the report said.
CAR quoted an eyewitness and human rights investigator working on behalf of several church groups as saying the 81mm mortar shells were dropped from helicopters and drones over several days.
The Indonesian government has remained silent on the report.
Father Bernard Baru, chairman of the Augustinian Order of the Justice and Peace Commission in Papua, said the government must explain the reasons for using these mortars, especially since they were purchased by BIN, which is actually prohibited by Indonesian law.
"The government must tell the public what its purpose is, what its target is, and why it is used to attack villages where civilians live," he said.
He said that the use of mortars seemed to confirm the view that the Indonesian government can do whatever it wants with Papua regardless of international regulations and human rights principles.
"I hope that the international community, including the UN as well as the Vatican, open their eyes to this issue, otherwise Papua will continue to be a place for humanitarian disasters to occur," he said.
Meanwhile, Yan Christian Warinussy, a human rights lawyer and activist in Manokwari, West Papua province, said the National Human Rights Commission must immediately take steps to investigate this matter.
He said the state must not allow the situation in Papua to continue to become hazy, with most victims being civilians.
Hussein Ahmad, a researcher from Imparsial, told Tempo news portal that the purchase of offensive weapons such as mortars is not justified because the functions of BIN are investigation, security, mobilization and coordination.
"It is not permissible for them to use violence in carrying out their duties, let alone to possess military weapons such as mortars," he said.He emphasized that post-reform, with the collapse of the authoritarian Suharto regime in 1998, BIN was made 100 percent civilian. "The task of modern intelligence is to provide information to the president, not to act alone," he said.
Papua has been beset by an independence insurgency since 1969 when an UN-supervised vote involving only about 1,025 people caused the former Dutch colony to become part of Indonesia.
A statement by three UN special rapporteurs in March stated that the security situation in Papua had "dramatically deteriorated" since April 2021, when separatists killed the head of the Papua BIN office in an ambush.