Wamena, Jubi – Human Rights Lawyers Association (PAHAM) Papua demands a thorough and impartial investigation into the death of Michelle Kurisi, a civilian who was tragically killed on August 28, 2023, in Kolawa District, Lanny Jaya Regency, Mountainous Papua Province.
Following Michelle Kurisi's murder, a statement claiming responsibility for the act was made by the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB) spokesperson, Sebby Sambom. The TPNPB alleged that the victim had collaborated with security forces and had engaged in spying activities during her visit to Nduga, where she was collecting data on refugees, including information related to the release of Philip Mark Mehrtens, a New Zealand pilot hostage.
Gustaf R. Kawer, the chairman of PAHAM Papua, emphasized that the focus of the investigation should not be to find a scapegoat or advance a politically motivated narrative. Instead, it should prioritize an independent inquiry that delves into the victim's daily life, her occupation, work-related relationships, and her mission to Nduga, including identifying the institutions or parties she was collaborating with. It is crucial to determine who was with her until she met her tragic end.
"Based on PAHAM Papua's digital tracing and monitoring efforts," Gustaf Kawer stated in a press release, "it appears that the victim had close ties with several high-ranking police officers in Papua and was actively involved in various conflicts in the region."
Therefore, there is a pressing need for an in-depth, impartial investigation into Michelle Kurisi's death by a neutral entity. This will help prevent claims and narratives driven by political interests.
Kawer stressed the importance of gathering witnesses and evidence, including the victim's digital footprint, her recent activities, and communications with various parties, particularly during her trip to Nduga. These elements are critical in unraveling the motive behind her murder.
Furthermore, the victim's participation in a webinar titled "Indonesia Walk Out Why?" hosted by Bishop Joshua Tewuh is noteworthy. During this event, she expressed support for the ULMWP delegation and criticized the Indonesian government strongly.
Given her recent track record, there are various speculations about the motive behind her murder. It is possible that her death was not solely orchestrated by the TPNPB but could involve groups with vested interests in Papua, aiming to silence her for her statements or to manipulate the narrative surrounding the Papua conflict.
In light of these circumstances, Gustaf Kawer urged the Indonesian Government to establish an independent team, through the Indonesian National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM), to investigate cases of extrajudicial killings thoroughly. This action is essential to prevent unfounded claims and protect civilians in Papua, whether by the TPNPB or the security forces. (*)