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Jakarta Post

Security forces allegedly shoot dead two Papuans at river near Freeport complex

  • Victor Mambor and Nina A. Loasana

    The Jakarta Post

Jayapura and Jakarta   /   Thu, April 16, 2020   /   10:15 am
Security forces allegedly shoot dead two Papuans at river near Freeport complex Personnel of the Cendrawasih Military Command prepare to deploy on a mission to recover the bodies of 12 victims who were aboard a military helicopter that went missing in June 2019 in Papua. (Courtesy of Cenderawasih Military Command/-)

The bodies of two Papuan men bearing gunshot wounds have been found along a river near the complex of gold and copper miner PT Freeport Indonesia in Mimika regency, Papua. It is believed they were shot and killed by security forces.

The bodies of the victims, 19-year-old Eden Armando Babari and 21-year-old Ronny Wandik, were found on a bank of the Kali Biru (Blue river) in the early hours of Tuesday morning. Eden's body was found fully clothed, while Ronny's body was discovered unclothed.

News of the incident circulating among local residents alleged that the two had been killed on Monday afternoon, when security forces were involved in a shootout with four members of an armed separatist group. 

The skirmish is thought to be connected to an incident last week in which New Zealander Graeme Thomas Wall, a Freeport employee, was shot dead by gunmen in the area. The West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB) has claimed responsibility for Wall's death.

The families of the two men, however, denied that either Eden or Ronny were involved with TPNPB or any other separatist group. 

The Cendrawasih Military Command did not immediately respond to The Jakarta Post's inquiries regarding the incident. 

Meanwhile, Cendrawasih Military Commander Maj. Gen. Herman Asaribab and Papua Police chief Ir. Gen Paulus Waterpauw visited the victims' families later on Tuesday to express their condolences.

"We will appoint personnel to investigate the incident so we can learn what happened, and of course there will be a legal process," Herman said after the visit. He neither confirmed nor denied the involvement of Indonesian Military (TNI) personnel or Papua Police members in the shootings.

"My son went to the river to dive [for fish] with his friend [Ronny]," said Eden's father, Demi Bebari. "They both became victims of the shooting by security forces while they were out fish hunting."

A resident of Kwamiki who requested anonymity supported Demi's statement, saying that Eden and Ronny had gone to the Kali Biru on Monday afternoon to fish.

"They went to the river to fish after fixing their motorcycles at a relative's house. Family members only found out that Eden had been shot to death at 2 a.m. on Tuesday," the resident said.

Read also: Human Rights Watch calls for independent investigation into Freeport shooting

Demi added that his son was a student at Multimedia Nusantara University (UMN) in Tangerang, Banten, and that he had never been involved with any separatist movement.

A UMN spokesperson confirmed with the Post that Eden was registered as a computer engineering student, but said that had not attended any lectures since 2018.

According to Demi, however, Eden had been attending classes until September 2019, when the racial abuse incident targeting Papuan students erupted in Surabaya, East Java. 

"He came back to Papua because he felt unsafe [after the incident]," said Demi.

The Surabaya incident caused an exodus of Papuan students from the island of Java.

Demi demanded that those who had killed his son be held responsible.

"I want the culprits arrested and tried in a civilian court. I don't want them tried in a military court. I ask that the National Human Rights Commission [Komnas HAM] to thoroughly investigate this case," he said.

Papuan Customary Council secretary Leo Imbiri also called for Komnas HAM to investigate the shootings, especially as he felt that cases of military violence were growing in Papua.

"In the last week alone, five young Papuans have been shot to death by the TNI," said Leo.

"Such events should not be considered normal or underestimated, especially since the victims were [part of] the future generation of Papua," he said.

Komnas HAM has since called for a military-police team be formed to investigate the fatal shootings.

"We need to find out why TNI personnel could misidentify the victims as targets of their operation. We also need to legally process all personnel involved in the incident," Komnas HAM commissioner Beka Ulung said in a statement on Wednesday.

In the statement, Beka also called on the defense minister and the TNI commander to conduct a complete review of military operations in Papua.

"It's important to prevent casualties and to protect and uphold human rights. The cycle of violence in Papua must stop. The President must not remain silent in view of the recurring violence in Papua," he said.