The Jakarta Post
The New York-based rights group Human Rights Watch (HRW) has praised the decision by a military court in Papua last week to convict two soldiers for their role in the deaths of two civilians on Aug. 28.
It said the court's ruling was the start of the end of Indonesian military injustice in Papua.
'The case is notable because the perpetrators are being punished,' HRW deputy Asia director Phelim Kine said on Tuesday.
In the trial last week, the court sentenced First Pvt. Makher Rehatta and Chief Pvt. Gregorius R. Geta to 12 years and three years in prison, respectively.
The cases of two other soldiers are still before the court.
On Aug. 28, all four soldiers allegedly got drunk and, with their assault rifles, opened fire on a group of Papuans that were holding a Thanksgiving ceremony in front of a church in Mimika regency.
Kine said an environment of impunity for military abuses in Papua remained, partly due to decades of restricted access for foreign media, diplomats and non-governmental groups wanting to enter the province.
Abuses have often gone unpunished due to technical reasons, the activist continued, such as the 1997 law on military tribunals that allows abuses by members of the military to be investigated without transparency or impartiality.
Indonesia, Kine said, had also long failed to properly investigate allegations of serious human rights abuse by members of its military, let alone prosecute anyone, and in rare cases where soldiers had been convicted by a military court, sentences had been extremely lenient.
'So last week's convictions are good news, but at best, just the start,' Kine said. He made the statement ahead of the one-year anniversary of the killing of five protesters in Papua's remote town of Enarotali on Dec. 8.
HRW says that witnesses have told them that security forces in Enarotali fatally shot five people during a peaceful protest. The protest was against the actions of several soldiers who had beaten several local children the previous evening.
It is unfortunate that one year later, those who killed those protesters still walk free despite three separate official investigations into the shootings, conducted by the police, the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) and through an informal military-and-police effort.
Kine said the military had not cooperated with the Komnas HAM inquiry and the 1997 law had blocked the civilian investigators from accessing military personnel at crime scenes. None of the investigations had made their findings public, he added.
'That's not good enough,' said Kine. 'Indonesian President Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo told Papuans three weeks after the killings that he wanted them 'solved immediately so it [wouldn't] ever happen again in the future', and also that he wanted the root of the problem found.'
'Until Jokowi releases the results of those three probes and ensures all those responsible are prosecuted, military injustice in Papua will remain alive and well." (ebf)(+)
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