Four teenagers were shot at a protest in Papua. Eight years on, only one man is facing trial

Hong Kong

Even by the bloody requirements of Indonesia’s decades-long Papua battle, one bloodbath stands out for its brutality – and the seeming impunity of these behind it.

On December 8, 2014, a crowd of a whole bunch of peaceable demonstrators in Paniai district, Papua province, have been fired upon – allegedly by Indonesian troopers – in an incident that left 4 youngsters useless and injured greater than a dozen different individuals, together with girls and youngsters.

Their supposed provocation? Daring to protest over the assault of a neighborhood 12-year-old boy crushed right into a coma a day earlier, allegedly by Indonesian particular forces.

Practically eight years have handed since these occasions, but no person has been held accountable. The Indonesian army has prior to now claimed Papuan rebels have been answerable for the shootings – an account even the federal government appears to doubt.

Final week, a retired army official, Maj. Isak Sattu, who served in Paniai, went on trial in a long-delayed case organized by the Indonesian Human Rights Fee, a authorities backed physique.

Nonetheless, few in Paniai imagine the trial will give them the solutions they’re in search of.

The trial, which started on September 21, is just not being held in Papua – the restive province the place Indonesian forces have been combating separatists ever because the Dutch colonial energy withdrew within the Nineteen Sixties. As a substitute, it’s happening 2,500 kilometers (1,500 miles) away in Makassar, on Sulawesi island, which the households of victims say has made it onerous for them and witnesses to attend, and critics have already labeled the proceedings a whitewash.

Prosecutors have charged Maj. Isak Sattu with 4 offenses that include penalties of as much as 25 years in jail, accusing him of crimes in opposition to humanity and failing in his command accountability by not stopping his males from taking weapons from the arsenal.

The households are boycotting the trial, saying they don’t belief that justice will likely be served and expressing disbelief over the federal government’s identification of a single suspect.

“It doesn’t match the information,” the households stated in a joint assertion launched on September 14. “The Indonesian authorities is simply defending perpetrators of gross human rights violations in Paniai. It’s a theater courtroom.”

“However the reality won’t ever be defeated or lined up.”

CNN despatched a number of e mail requests for remark to Indonesian authorities officers together with President Joko Widodo’s workplace, the army, and Indonesia’s Human Rights Fee however obtained no response.

Allegations of human rights abuses by Indonesian authorities forces in opposition to indigenous Papuans floor ceaselessly.

Earlier this yr, UN-appointed rights specialists stated that between April and November 2021 they obtained allegations of “a number of situations of extrajudicial killings, together with of younger kids, enforced disappearance, torture and inhuman remedy and the pressured displacement of a minimum of 5,000 indigenous Papuans by safety forces.”

Nonetheless, pursuing allegations in opposition to the Indonesian army has historically proved troublesome. Worldwide rights our bodies have complained of being unable to entry the area. UN specialists have urged the Indonesian authorities to conduct “full and unbiased investigations into the abuses.”

However even in opposition to this background, the Paniai bloodbath stands out as significantly delicate as a result of it came about simply two months after President Joko Widodo – popularly generally known as Jokowi – first got here into energy, promising change and “open dialogue.”

“I need to take heed to the individuals’s voices, and I’m keen to open dialogue for a greater Papua. The individuals of Papua don’t solely want well being care, schooling, the development of roads and bridges, however additionally they must be listened to,” Jokowi stated as a part of his inauguration speech in December 2014.

“One of many first guarantees that the President made to the Papuan individuals was to resolve this case,” stated Indonesian human rights lawyer Veronica Koman at Amnesty Worldwide.

“He additionally expressed a want for a dialogue to finish the battle – however these guarantees have nonetheless not been met, and plenty of different Papuan kids have since been killed or tortured by Indonesian forces.”

In accordance with Human Rights Watch, the 2014 protest capturing allegedly came about the day after a unit of particular forces troopers assaulted Yulian Yeimo, apparently to punish him for shouting at one among their autos that had pushed via his village at evening with out its headlights on. Yeimo and his associates had been reportedly adorning a Christmas tree and a nativity scene on the time.

CNN has been unable to independently confirm the small print in regards to the incident.

Authorities have didn’t acknowledge or deal with what occurred to Yeimo, famous rights teams.

The beating sparked a fierce outcry that prompted a whole bunch of villagers to protest within the public sq. in Enarotali. 4 youngsters have been killed when the group was fired upon: Simon Degei, 18; Otianus Gobai, 18; Alfius Youw, 17; and Abia Gobay, 17.

Eyewitnesses stated the gunmen have been Indonesian troopers, and weeks following the assault, whereas on an official go to to Papua, President Widodo promised the army and police would conduct a full investigation.

Nonetheless, within the aftermath of the killings, military chief Gen. Gatot Nurmantyo denied that troopers shot the protesters and claimed that the gunfire got here from Papuan guerrilla fighters.

Yeimo, the 12-year-old whose beating preceded the bloodbath, died from his accidents in 2018 having by no means recovered from his coma, in keeping with his household. To at the present time, no person has been held accountable for his loss of life – or for the deaths of these killed within the ensuing protests.

Sophie Grig, a senior analysis officer at Survival Worldwide, a London-based charity campaigning for Indigenous rights, stated progress for the victims of the Paniai bloodbath had been “glacial” and referred to as the state of affairs “appalling.”

“The tradition of impunity for human rights abusers in West Papua should finish,” Grig stated.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo reviews members of the military's special armed forces.

Fueling the tensions in Papua, say rights teams, are divisions alongside each ethnic and spiritual strains. Indigenous Papuans are inclined to have darker pores and skin than different Indonesians, and are often Christian slightly than Muslim – the bulk faith within the nation.

“There’s actually a component of racist discrimination in the way in which the Indonesian safety forces deal with the Papuans as deserving of abuse,” stated Phil Robertson, the deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia division.

“Papuans’ political calls for for independence additionally convey out the worst in successive Indonesian governments and the army,” he stated.

“The underlying drawback is discrimination and racism from Indonesian officers – the army, police, judges – in opposition to indigenous Papuans, and the result’s rights abuses and the tradition of impunity that protects the abuses.”

Papua, a former Dutch colony, was formally absorbed into Indonesia following a controversial referendum in 1969. Advocates of Papuan independence say that vote was neither free nor honest.

Separatist sentiment stays, discovering its expression not solely within the armed Free Papua Motion however in wider public protests. Enormous pupil protests erupted in 2019 and grew right into a civil resistance marketing campaign demanding Papuan independence from Indonesia. Public anger has additionally been stoked by a contentious regulation handed in July by Indonesia’s Parliament to create three new provinces in Papua – a transfer critics stated would take energy away from the indigenous inhabitants.

Hundreds of Papuans demonstrated in front of the Jakarta Palace in 2019.

Regardless of the opening of the trial, many unknowns surrounding the occasions of December 8, 2014, stay.

The Indonesian authorities bans unbiased reporting from inside Papua, and the area has been off-limits to overseas journalists for many years. CNN was unable to independently confirm a number of accounts highlighted on this story.

“The massive query is whether or not this trial is the start of one thing completely different or simply an effort to supply up a scapegoat to deflect worldwide consideration earlier than world leaders go to Indonesia for the G-20 (assembly in November),” stated Robertson of Human Rights Watch.

“Overseas leaders ought to press Indonesia onerous on what is occurring in Papua, and never be deflected by a trial that simply scratches the floor of what must be achieved to proper wrongs in Papua.”

Families of the Papuans who suffered during the Paniai massacre have refused to participate in the trial.

Andreas Harsono, an Indonesia researcher with Human Rights Watch, added: “Sure – this (trial) is lengthy awaited, nevertheless it’s nonetheless a present trial, and I’m not hopeful that will probably be unbiased or honest.”

“One retired army officer is because of stand trial, however many lives have been misplaced that day,” he stated.

“Who was the commanding officer who gave orders to shoot protesters? The place are the others accountable?”

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