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Indonesia: Investigate the shooting of two students by police in West Papua, says MRG

30 September 2015

The Indonesian government must immediately investigate the shooting of two West Papuan high school students by security forces in Timika this week and hold the perpetrators to account, Minority Rights Group International (MRG) said on Wednesday.

One 17-year-old was killed and another critically wounded on Monday 28 September shortly after police officers raided a residential building in Timika, where a group of high school friends were socializing. Fearing for their lives, two of the teenagers reportedly fled into the street where police officers then opened fire. Kaleb Bogau died on the scene and Efrando Sobarek, who was shot in his chest and leg, is in a critical condition in the hospital.

Residents say the police claimed to be looking for “trouble makers” whose fathers belonged to the Free West Papua Movement. The families of the victims deny any connection to the separatist group. Regardless of the veracity of these claims, the shooting of reportedly unarmed teenagers who were fleeing at the time and apparently due to allegations concerning their parents is in breach of all international human rights norms and standards.

“There is no justification for these senseless murders and the Indonesian government must urgently establish an independent inquiry to hold perpetrators to account,” said Claire Thomas, Deputy Director at MRG. “Extrajudicial killings in West Papua have reached unacceptable proportions, with the indigenous population living in daily fear of security forces and for their lives.”

While the circumstances leading up to the shootings are contested, MRG understands from local sources that the housing complex was quiet and peaceful until the arrival of police. Police trucks reportedly surrounded the residential complex, before officers interrogated locals about the whereabouts of the youths.

The family of the victim, Kaleb Bogau, has accused the Indonesian police of carrying out a political assassination. Kaleb’s father is Daniel Bogau, a priest with the local Papuan Evangelical Kingme Church, and a member of the National Committee for West Papua (KNPB), a peaceful civil society organization advocating for an independent Papuan state.

In December 2014 four unarmed Papuan teenagers were killed and 17 more Papuans were injured when the Indonesian army and police opened fire on a group of peaceful protestors in Paniai. Despite widespread calls for an independent investigation into the massacre, the case remains unsolved.

This week’s shooting resurrects concerns about extrajudicial killings and impunity in the conflict-torn region, despite a pledge by Indonesian President Joko Widodo to address human rights concerns in West Papua.

“It is not enough for President Joko Widodo to make bold promises about promoting human rights in Papua unless it is followed up with concrete action,” added Thomas. “This must include addressing the underlying causes of violence and insecurity in West Papua, including endemic impunity for state-sponsored violence and the disregard for minority and indigenous rights.”

Dozens of Papuans, including peaceful protesters and unarmed youths, have been killed by the Indonesian army or police force in recent years. Dozens more have disappeared. Many more remain incarcerated as political prisoners.

On Tuesday, locals in Timika staged a peaceful demonstration against the killings. Timika is the location of the controversial Freeport-McMoran copper mine.