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Activists seek probe into Indonesia's Papua riots

UCA News - February 28, 2023

Catholic activists and human rights groups in Indonesia have demanded a thorough probe into a recent riot that claimed 12 lives in restive Papua province, where a separatist insurgency has been waged for decades.

"One has to find out why civilians can be treated in such an inhuman way by being shot, not through persuasive means," Father John Bunai from the Diocese of Jayapura, capital of Papua province, told UCA News on Feb. 27.

Father Bunai, a Jayapura diocese delegate for the Papua Peace Network, which promotes dialogue to resolve the ongoing conflict in Indonesia's easternmost province, said a thorough investigation was crucial for the creation of a conducive atmosphere for talks.

'It is not enough to remove the local police chief'

The police arrested the duo and claimed that the kidnapping was misinformation. However, angry residents attacked the police.

In the clashes, 10 Papuans died, and 20 others were injured, while two other migrants from the Batak tribe died after they were attacked by residents.

National police chief Listyo Sigit Prabowo dismissed the Jayawijaya police chief, Hesman Sotarduga Napitupulu, following the incident. Police arrested 13 people accused of instigating the riot.

Father Bunai said police had to explain clearly what happened on Feb. 23, and "it is not enough to remove the local police chief."

"What must be done is to find out why civilians were shot indiscriminately. Why do they [police officers] see Papuans as enemies?" he said.

He said the police's explanation was important so as not to create the impression that they were on the side of one community. "Such efforts have only made the situation worse"

Indonesia's security forces have long been accused of committing atrocities against Papuan civilians during the decades-long insurgency in the mineral-rich province.

Father Alexandro Rangga from Franciscans' Secretariat for Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation, criticized the way the authorities handled the incident, as well as the deployment of additional troops.

"Those who should be involved in calming the situation are traditional leaders and religious leaders, not the deployment of troops," he said.

"Such efforts have only made the situation worse," he told UCA News.

Usman Hamid, executive director of Amnesty International Indonesia, said what happened "indicates the repetition of cases of violence that have claimed the lives of many civilians in Papua."

He said it "must be investigated through a fair and impartial legal process."

Fatia Maulidiyanti, coordinator of the Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence, said shootings at civilians showed that police "were not competent enough to prevent conflicts."

Source: https://www.ucanews.com/news/activists-seek-probe-into-indonesias-papua-riots/10049