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Mutilation case comments show state’s knee-jerk response to allegations of violence involving security forces In Papua

Responding to Indonesian Army Strategic Reserve commander Lt. Gen. Maruli Simanjuntak’s comments on 15 September that the unlawful killing and dismemberment of four Papuans does not constitute a gross human rights violation but only “a criminal matter.”, Amnesty International Indonesia Executive Director Usman Hamid said:

“Lt. Gen. Simanjuntak’s comments are a sad reflection of the Indonesian state’s knee-jerk response to allegations of violence involving security forces in Papua. Too often such cases are met with denial and dismissiveness.”

“First of all, it is  too premature to determine whether or not the incident meets the criteria of a gross human rights violation. The National Human Rights Commission is in the midst of conducting an investigation and these comments only serve to muddy the waters.”

“Secondly, these comments are highly insensitive to the victims’ families, whose family members have been brutally killed, dismembered and disposed of.”

“Amnesty International Indonesia believes that there is ample preliminary evidence to indicate that a serious human rights violation may have taken place, particularly since at least six members of the Army Strategic Reserves are suspected to be involved, including two officers.”

“We urge authorities to ensure that an independent and impartial investigation is conducted with respect to all aspects of this appalling incident including determining the extent of command involvement in the murders. In the meantime, we call on all state parties to refrain from making hasty and insensitive comments that could affect or influence what should be a transparent and impartial investigation.”

Background

On 28 August, Papuan police announced that 10 people, six of whom are members of the Indonesian military, were suspected of killing four people in Mimika, beheading them and cutting off their legs before throwing them into a nearby river.

The body parts of all four victims have since been found. Nine people are in the custody of police, while the six soldiers are currently in the custody of military police in Mimika. One civilian suspect is still at large and being searched for by police.

On 15 September, Indonesian Army Strategic Reserve commander Lt. Gen. Maruli Simanjuntak told journalists that the murders were not a gross human rights violation, but only “a criminal matter.”

According to Amnesty International Indonesia’s monitoring, between February 2018 and July 2022 there have been at least 61 suspected cases of unlawful killings in Papua and West Papua involving security forces, with a total of 99 victims.

Unlawful killings by the authorities constitute a violation of the right to life, which is clearly protected by international human rights law.

Amnesty International takes no position whatsoever on the political status of any province of Indonesia, including on calls for independence. However, the organization considers that the right to freedom of expression protects the right to peacefully advocate for independence or any other political solutions that do not involve incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence.