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Update on detention of two Papuans arrested after shooting in Yahukimo - Police obstruct lawyers from meeting with suspects

Human Rights Monitor - March 28, 2024

The Papuan Legal Aid Institute (LBH Papua) has raised concerns over the denial of legal assistance to Melianus Baye and Benny Elopere, two minors detained by the Papua Regional Police (Polda Papua) on suspicion of involvement in an aircraft shooting incident in the Yahukimo Regency. Military members arbitrarily arrested the minors while bathing in the Brazza River in Dekai District, Yahukimo Regency, on 22 February 2024, shortly after an armed clash with a resistance fighter of the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB). Human rights defenders allege that the minors were tortured upon arrest, as photos indicate.

Despite being appointed as legal counsel by the families of the detainees, LBH Papua advocates were repeatedly denied access to meet with Melianus Baye and Benny Elopere by the investigators from the Papua Police's Directorate of Criminal Investigation and General Crimes. The investigators reportedly still denied access as the suspects' relatives accompanied LBH lawyers. The denial of access undermines the fundamental right to legal representation during detention, as enshrined in international human rights standards and Indonesia's Criminal Procedure Code (KUHAP).

Emanuel Gobay, Director of LBH Papua, highlighted the obstruction faced by their advocates, emphasizing the discriminatory treatment in contrast to previous cases where access to detainees was granted without hindrance. The obstruction raises concerns about the transparency and fairness of the legal process. Such actions not only violate the detainees' right to legal support but also impede their ability to defend themselves against the accusations leveled against them effectively. Moreover, the denial of access for lawyers could be a strategy to cover up acts of physical torture during detention.


Statistical figures indicate that the use of torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, and treatment remains a widespread practice among the police and military in West Papua. Accordingly, the eradication of torture and ill-treatment remains among the urgent human rights issues in West Papua.

Another case of torture in West Papua has recently drawn national attention to the problem of torture in West Papua after videos of Indonesian soldiers torturing an indigenous Papuan went viral on social media, causing public outrage. The footage is rare visual evidence of the utmost brutality used by security force members during raids in conflict areas across West Papua.

Similar to extra-judicial executions, the widespread use of torture and ill-treatment is closely linked to the problem of impunity, particularly for perpetrators of the police, who are rarely brought to justice in public civil court trials. Human rights education programs for police officers and military members appear not to be able to tackle this problem as long as perpetrators receive lenient imprisonment sentences and disciplinary sanctions in closed internal procedures.

Source: https://humanrightsmonitor.org/case/update-on-detention-of-two-papuans-arrested-after-shooting-in-yahukimo-police-obstruct-lawyers-from-meeting-with-suspects