Soldiers had role in shooting: Komnas HAM
Margareth S. Aritonang
The Jakarta Post
The National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) has demanded that the government immediately set up a joint fact-finding team involving the national rights body, the Indonesian Military (TNI), the National Police and local leaders to probe the recent shootings in Paniai, Papua, after a Komnas HAM investigation confirmed soldiers were the primary cause.
Komnas HAM's investigative team declared that the violent incident, which left five civilians dead and injured another 30, could have been prevented if soldiers had not exercised force in response to what Komnas HAM called a 'minor notice' from the locals.
Confirming previous reports, the investigative team found that the initial provocation took place on the evening of Dec. 7 when a soldier, allegedly a member of the Uwibutu 753 Special Team military command post, driving a black SUV, was scolded by local children for not turning on his headlights when passing by a Christmas hut at a church
Angered, the soldier returned to the site with eight of his fellow soldiers and beat the children, injuring 11 of them aged between eight and 16 years old. All of the minors are currently hospitalized at a local hospital.
'It was just a little thing, and the soldiers responded excessively,' Nur Kholis, a member of the investigative team, told the press on Monday.
The violence that evening led to further violence.
The next day, locals blocked the main road and disrupted traffic in Enarotali city in protest at the soldiers' brutality, demanding their arrest. But the protest later turned chaotic after gunshots were heard.
Four male teenagers aged 16 and 17 years old were shot dead on the spot during the incident. The deceased were identified as Alpius Youw, Alpius Gobay, Simon Degey and Yulian Yeimo. A fifth youth died later in hospital.
The incident also resulted in injuries to 11 other locals, three policemen and seven soldiers.
Komnas HAM's investigation has yet to identify whether the gunshots were fired by members of the police or the TNI, who were at the location for security reasons.
While the locals suffered from gunshot wounds, members of the police and the TNI were injured by stones thrown by the locals.
'We found no serious threats during the incident that would justify the police and the TNI using such excessive force to deal with the crowd,' Maneger Nasution, who led the investigative team, insisted.
Security officers should have used a different approach when dealing with a conflict-prone area like Papua, he added.
'Using violence is not a good approach,' Maneger said.
Maneger explained that the investigation, which was conducted from Dec. 12 to 15, excluded the TNI's version of story, as the latter had refused to provide information to Komnas HAM during the process.
However, according to TNI spokesman Maj. Gen. Fuad Basya, the TNI had yet to receive any requests from Komnas HAM regarding the matter.
Fuad told The Jakarta Post that the TNI had set up its own investigative team, which was still conducting an inquiry into the incident.
'We've heard about the alleged assault against the children. We don't want to draw conclusions until our [investigative] team has concluded its work. However, for the time being, much of the information circulated against our members is questionable. For example, why would a soldier drive at night without headlights?' Fuad said.
He explained that the investigation was expected to reveal all details regarding the violent incident including the shooting of the teenagers.
'We will look very carefully at whether the shooting violated procedure. If not, then it was necessary for the sake of security. But again, let's wait until the investigation is completed,' Fuad said.
Besides the separate investigations by the TNI and Komnas HAM, the Papua Police is also conducting its own investigation into the matter.
The central government, meanwhile, has yet to take action in response to the incident.
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