Amnesty: Indonesian forces behind unlawful killings in Papua

FILE - In this March 20, 2017, file photo, a Papuan activist whose body is painted in the colors of "Morning Star" separatist flag shouts slogans as police officers stand guard during a protest in Jakarta, Indonesia. Amnesty International said Monday, July 2, 2018 there have been dozens of unlawful killings by security forces in Indonesia's easternmost Papua region since 2008, including targeted slayings of activists, and a near total absence of justice for the mainly indigenous victims. (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim, File)

JAKARTA, Indonesia — Indonesia's police and military are responsible for at least 95 unlawful killings in the easternmost Papua region since 2010, including targeted slayings of activists, Amnesty International said Monday, condemning a near-total absence of justice for the mainly indigenous victims.

In a report based on two years of research, Amnesty said that more than half the victims were either political activists or people taking part in peaceful protests often unrelated to the Papuan independence movement. Security forces often explain their use of deadly force in Papua as a justified response to violent separatists.

It said none of the killings was the subject of independent criminal investigation. In about a third of the cases, there was not even an internal investigation. When police or military claimed to have investigated internally, they did not make the findings public. Eight deaths were compensated with money or pigs.

The killings — nearly one a month for the past eight years — are a "serious blot" on Indonesia's human rights record, said Usman Hamid, executive director of Amnesty International Indonesia.

"This culture of impunity within the security forces must change, and those responsible for past deaths held to account," he said.

An independence movement and an armed insurgency have simmered in the formerly Dutch-controlled region since it was annexed by Indonesia in 1963. Indonesian rule has been frequently brutal, and indigenous Papuans, largely shut out of their region's economy, are poorer, sicker and more likely to die young than people elsewhere in Indonesia.

The army's spokesman in Papua province, Col. Muhammad Aidi, rejected Amnesty's report, describing it as "untrue and baseless."

"It is clearly slandering the government and trying to corner the army and police," he told The Associated Press.

Aidi claimed the rights group's investigations were "just based on interviews" and ignored the background to incidents. Amnesty's 66-page report, however, provides extensive detail and context and acknowledges that police and the military face a "complex environment" in the two Papuan provinces.

A majority of the killings documented by Amnesty were the result of unnecessary or excessive use of force during protests or law enforcement operations and unlawful acts by individual officers, it said.

Some occurred in circumstances related to the Papuan independence movement such as raising of the banned "Morning Star" independence flag or ceremonies marking significant dates.

Whatever the situation, victims were overwhelmingly male indigenous Papuans and the majority were 30 or younger.

The rights group said the government of President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo, elected in 2014, had failed to end the security forces' pervasive impunity in Papua, like all Indonesian governments before it.

Despite a promise by the newly elected Jokowi to bring to justice officers responsible for killing four people when they fired into a crowd of protesters in December 2014 in Paniai district, there has been no criminal investigation even after Indonesia's Human Rights Commission found evidence of "gross human rights violations," Amnesty said.

In that case, villagers were protesting the alleged beating of Papuan children and youths by soldiers and threw stones and wood at a police and military buildings before officers opened fire. Two witnesses saw police officers beat one of the protesters and shoot him at close range after he fell to the ground, according to the Human Rights Commission.

Jokowi's spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

His administration has released long-incarcerated Papuan political prisoners but activists say prosecutions and jailings that appear politically motivated have resumed recently.

At a news conference, Hamid faulted top security minister Wiranto, a former military chief who goes by one name, for lack of government attention to human rights abuses in Papua since he was appointed to the Cabinet in July 2016.

"We all know Wiranto has been implicated in human rights violations in East Timor in 1999," he said, referring to Indonesian military atrocities after East Timorese voted for independence in a U.N.-supervised referendum.

Amnesty said there have been 10 killings of activists from the pro-independence West Papua National Committee since 2010.

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Associated Press writer Ali Kotarumalos in Jakarta, Indonesia contributed.

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