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Military involved in disappearances in Irian

Agence France Presse - August 7, 1998

Jakarta – A rights organization Friday said it suspected Indonesian military involvement in the disappearance of five people after a bloody pro-independence demonstration early last month which left one dead in the remote province of Irian Jaya.

Munir, head of the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras), charged the military was involved in the disappearance of the five after the protest in Biak, some 3,250 kilometers east of here. Kontras, in response to the violent suppression of several pro-independence rallies in Irian Jaya between July 1-6, on Wednesday set up a secretariate in the capital of Jayapura.

During their investigation they learned of the five disappearances – those of a taxi driver, a student, a former male nurse and two white collar workers, one of whom was a woman. The taxi driver had been seen by witnesses being dragged away by three military men and put in a car with no licence plate, indicating the disappearances were kidnappings with "close links" to the military, he said.

"In fact the forms of security violence cannot be separated from the fact that it is a Military Operation Status (DOM) area... violence is very closely linked to areas designated as having DOM," Munir told a press conference at the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation here. "The violence in the forms of disappearances, abuse and even murder, have become the greatest threats to the livelihood of the people in Irian," he added.

Irian Jaya, the predominantly Melanesian Christian-populated former Dutch colony of Western Papua, became part of Indonesia in 1963. But since its integration it has seen running guerrilla activities by the Free Papua Movement, which is demanding independence.

Ten members of the Youth Committee for the Rights of Peoples of Papua were present at the press conference to seek support from Kontras in carrying out a more intensive investigation over the military abuses "We are here to ask for Kontras' support to feel our pain and defend the rights of their brothers in Irian Jaya," Jimmy Demianus Ijie, the Committee's secretary, said.

Ijie also questioned whether some of the 33 bodies identified as victims of the tidal wave in neighbouring Papua New Guinea had not been victims of the military action against the demonstrators in Biak, who had raised the Free Papua flag. "It was physically impossible for them to be washed ashore in Biak," he said.

The military said Wednesday it had identified eight soldiers suspected of involvement in the killing of law student Steven Suripaty during a pro-independence demonstration at Jayapura's Cendrawasih University early in July. A female high school student near the rally was also injured by shots fired after the students allegedly attacked a police intelligence officer who had been in their midst during a free speech forum.