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West Papuans attacked by Indonesian army

ABC Lateline - October 27, 2011

Six people have died in shootings after the West Papuan Independent Movement declared independence, which Indonesia describes as an act of treason.

Tony Jones, presenter: Last week six people were killed in the Indonesian province of West Papua after separatists declared independence from Indonesia at a people's congress.

Lateline has obtained exclusive pictures of the aftermath of the shootings, which were alleged to have been carried out by Indonesian security forces, including anti-terrorist troops trained by Australia.

Indonesia says the declaration in the restive province is an act of treason and people have been charged according to the law. West Papuan independence activists say the shootings were planned.

Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs says the Indonesian police response was disproportionate.

Hamish Fitzsimmons has this report.

Hamish Fitzsimmons, reporter: Thousands attended the third West Papuan People's Congress on 19th October in Jayapura

It was organised by the West Papuan independence movement, which says it was forcibly included in the Indonesian republic almost 50 years ago.

And last week, the congress took the dramatic step of declaring independence from Jakarta and electing its own government.

Edison Waromi, Papuan People's Congress Prime Minister: We will appoint a main leader who will unite the movement and ideologies. This is the time to make clear to God, to the international community, also to Indonesia and the people of Papua.

Hamish Fitzsimmons: After the declaration was made, security forces moved in to break up the meeting. The Indonesian government says police fired warning shots to disperse the crowd and made many arrests, six people have been charged with treason.

But six people are also reported to have been killed and many more injured. Those who witnessed the violence want the international community to intervene in West Papua.

John Baransano, West Papuan Youth Church: I call on the churches around the world to care about this. I'm calling for an intervention for us because today's events show that we need a transitional government and this needs to happen to help the people of Papua. We are now in a dangerous situation and we're calling for a UN intervention to help us.

Hamish Fitzsimmons: John Baransano is a Protestant minister in Jayapura who was at the peoples' congress. He says he saw people being shot and beaten and others herded into trucks.

John Baransano: I saw with my own eyes people who were bleeding. They had been hit. We saw how they were terribly harassed. They were forced into a truck and ordered to sit down so they wouldn't be seen by others. But if we were up higher, we could see what had been done to them.

Hamish Fitzsimmons: Anglican minister Peter Woods lived in Indonesia for many years and is dedicated to helping West Papuans achieve independence.

He was in Jayapura during the congress and filmed interviews with many of the independence movement's leaders. He says the security forces waited until independence was declared at the meeting.

Peter Woods, West Papuan independence supporter: The Army, the special police, the Brimob, the Densus 88, which had been along the road for the last three days in various barracks and positioning areas, they all moved in and started firing.

Hamish Fitzsimmons: The Indonesian government says there were deaths, but not at the site of the congress and the victims' wounds were not gunshot wounds, but from a sharp weapon.

This vision has been supplied by West Papuan independence activists and can't be independently verified. It appears to show many bullet holes.

Reverend Woods believes the violence on 19th was premeditated.

Peter Woods: It was very well-planned and they waited until the declaration had been made. The justification for that was that – well we've heard variously a coup d'etat was being planned, or a state within the state of Indonesia was being declared.

Hamish Fitzsimmons: Amongst the troops were soldiers from the Densus 88 unit, Indonesia's elite anti-terror squad, which is funded and trained by Australia and the United States. The Australian Government says it funds training for the Indonesian armed forces that emphasises human rights awareness, accountability and respect for the rule of law, including in Papua, and that it doesn't train Indonesia's military to counter separatist groups.

The Greens want military training halted.

Richard Di Natale, Greens Senator: The Australian Government should immediately suspend all support for the Indonesian military. It should, as a matter of urgency, send a fact-finding mission to the region.

Hamish Fitzsimmons: Elite police from Jakarta and Indonesia's National Commission for Human Rights are investigating the shootings, but there are claims that some of the injured in the crackdown are too afraid to seek treatment, fearing they'll be arrested.

One of those is Abraham Kereni, who was one a representatives at the congress.

Abraham Kereni, West Papuan Independence Rep.: Then those – the security forces, they immediately held pistols and opened the door of the car of the prime minister. It was there that shots were fired. They opened the door and pulled me out. As they were pulling me out, there were three crew that came and hit me.

Hamish Fitzsimmons: A spokesman for Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs says it appears from reports that the police's response, following calls for independence at the conclusion of the congress, was disproportionate.

Hamish Fitzsimmons, Lateline.