Katharina R. Lestari – More than 100 Catholic priests have signed a petition seeking fair trials in cases of violence, including sensational murders, as a way of peace-building in Indonesia's restive Christian-majority Papua region.
The petition includes a five-point declaration which was adopted during a meeting of 106 diocesan priests from all five dioceses in the region in Agats, Asmat district in South Papua province on Oct. 4-9.
The priests cited the Aug. 22 killing and mutilation of four Protestant Christians in Mimika district of Central Papua province allegedly by six soldiers, who accused them of having links with separatist rebels.
The military said the accused soldiers will be prosecuted in a military court. Four civilians have also been named suspects in the case.
The priests' declaration says they "back all legal processes which are being carried out to reveal cases of intimidation, violence, murder, and massacre in Timika city as well as in Nduga and Maybrat districts. We reject intervention by any party attempting to obstruct the legal processes."
It asserts they "reject intervention by any party attempting to obstruct the legal processes" and urge "security personnel and armed criminal groups to find more dignified and peaceful ways to deal with conflicts."
"We strongly denounce any form of racial acts, intimidation, violence, and murder carried out in inhumane ways against the Papuan people as well as outsiders," they said.
"We call on the central government – president and the parliament – and the police as well as NGOs to tackle each problem emerging in the Land of Papua with a peaceful heart and mind and through a dialogue of peace," the declaration added.
Father Dominikus Dulione Hodo, the coordinator of diocesan priests in Papua, said that the call was made as his group believe that nearly all legal processes in the region tended to run slowly and not transparently.
"The Paniai shooting trial in Makassar, for example. There seems to be an intervention, an obstruction of justice," he told UCA News.
The Human Rights Court in Makassar, in South Sulawesi province, began the trial in this case in September, nearly eight years after four Christian students aged 17-18 were allegedly gunned down by security forces during a protest in December 2014 in Paniai district of what was then Papua province.
The Attorney-General's Office (AGO) named Isak Sattu, an Indonesian military retiree who was a liaison officer for the Paniai Military Command, as a suspect in the case after the National Commission on Human Rights investigated and revealed last year that the incident amounted to a "gross human rights violation."
"By issuing the recommendation, we want to echo our voice," Father Hodo said.
Father Alberto John Bunay, a diocesan priest from Jayapura diocese and former coordinator of the Papua Peace Network, said unresolved murder cases are "obstacles to peace" in Papua.
"With the recommendation, we are encouraged to create peace in Papua along with the people. We are all equal before the law," he told UCA News.
He said a copy of the recommendation will be sent to related parties, including the home affairs minister and national police chief.
Yones Douw, a local rights activist, said most legal processes related to cases of human rights violations in Papua "are carried out behind the closed door."
"The Paniai shooting case, for example. There is only one suspect – the killer. But who gave him the order to shoot?" he said.Papua, the easternmost region of Indonesia was annexed at the end of Dutch colonial rule in the 1960s through a referendum considered by many a sham.
A pro-independence insurgency and consequent military crackdown triggered a trail of violence that left thousands killed and displaced in the past decades. Both the military and separatists are accused of gross human rights violations.