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Investigate Suspected Killing of Indigenous Papuan Farmer by Police Officer

Responding to a police officer’s involvement in the death of a local farmer in May in a palm oil plantation owned by PT. Tunas Sawa Erma in Boven Digul, Papua, Amnesty International Indonesia Deputy Director Ary Hermawan said:

“Given the long track record of security forces in Papua acting with the utmost impunity, it’s imperative that this apparent killing by a police officer be promptly investigated. A public apology is not enough – this investigation should be thorough, immediate, independent, and impartial. Those suspected of responsibility should be brought to justice in fair trials, without recourse to the death penalty.”

“It has been almost two months since the incident happened. There should have been an explanation from the authorities regarding the preliminary investigation against the police who is responsible for the killing.”

Background

On 16 May 2020, witnesses reportedly claim they saw a police officer violently and fatally attacking an Indigenous Boven Digul farmer named Marius Betera. The attack took place at the oil palm plantation owned by PT. Tunas Sawa Erma in Jair District, Boven Digoel Regency, Papua. Before the incident occurred, the victim went to the plantation owners’ offices, whom he accused of destroying his banana plantation.

Boven Digoel Police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Syamsurijal has admitted the incident took place and conveyed an apology to national media after previously claiming that Marius died of a heart attack. He also said the police officer who allegedly attacked Marius had been arrested, and that he would be sanctioned.

Unlawful killings carried out by police officers violates the right to life, a fundamental human right protected by international human rights law and Indonesia’s Constitution. Indonesia has ratified several international human rights treaties that protect the right to life, chief among them being the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Indonesia acceded to in February 2006. Article 6(1) of the ICCPR states: “Every human being has the inherent right to life. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life.” The failure to investigate such allegations, to identify, bring to justice and punish the perpetrators, and to grant compensation to victims or their families is a separate violation of human rights.

Moreover, impunity among police officers is a long-standing issue in Indonesia. Despite the issuance of several Chief of the National Police Regulations (Perkap), including No. 8/2009 on the Implementation of Human Rights Principles and Standards in the Discharge of Duties of the Indonesian National Police, No. 1/2009 on the Use of Force, and No. 16/2006 on Policing Public Assembly, the regulations are still poorly implemented. Investigations into reports of abuses by police forces are rare. Even when alleged perpetrators of serious infractions are held to account, it is most commonly done through internal disciplinary mechanisms rather than independent judicial proceedings.

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