Shootings and arrests spread fear in West Papua

Thirteen indigenous Papuans were arrested on 13 March in the town of Manokwari, West Papua, for taking part in peaceful demonstrations against the 2007 law banning the display of the Papuan Morning Star flag. Survival is concerned for the safety of the 11 who are still in custody, following allegations of torture.

Police are said to be planning to charge the protesters with ‘rebellion’ and ‘spreading hatred against the state’ for raising the West Papuan flag. In the past tribal people arrested for peacefully protesting against Indonesia’s rule have been sentenced to up to 20 years in prison.

In a separate incident in the town of Enarotali in the Papuan highlands on 10 March, the Indonesian army and police went on a two-hour shooting rampage against local people. The confrontation began when police beat up a local man, Yavet Pigai, which sparked demonstrations outside a police station.

A total of nine people were reportedly injured in the shooting in Enarotali, including an 18 year-old who was taken to hospital in a serious condition with a bullet lodged in his stomach. Another man was beaten by police and has serious head injuries.

More than one hundred police, paramilitary police (BRIMOB) and soldiers (including combat troops from outside the province) are reported to have fired on the demonstrators and then continued shooting for two hours in a terrifying show of strength and intimidation.

The Catholic Office of Justice and Peace (SKP) in Jayapura, West Papua, has submitted a report to the United Nations Human Rights council detailing 242 documented individual cases of torture and ill treatment by the security forces in West Papua since 1998.  SKP concluded that the use of torture and cruel and degrading treatment by the security forces against the tribal population was widespread and that there was a culture of violence and racism within the forces.