Indonesian forces to blame for Papua killings: Amnesty

03 Jul 2018


Jakarta: Amnesty International Indonesia Executive Director Usman Hamid is projected on a screen as he speaks during a briefing on Monday.—Reuters
Jakarta: Amnesty International Indonesia Executive Director Usman Hamid is projected on a screen as he speaks during a briefing on Monday.—Reuters

JAKARTA: Indonesian security forces are behind the unlawful killing of at least 95 people in Papua since 2010, with most perpetrators never held to account, Amnesty International said in a new report on Monday.

Papua, on the western half of New Guinea island, has been the scene of a simmering independence insurgency since it was annexed by Indonesia in the late 1960s.

Political activists and demonstrators peacefully protesting the government were among those killed in recent violence, as well as residents involved in non-political gatherings in Indonesia’s easternmost province, the rights group said.

Not one case has been subject to an independent criminal investigation, according to Amnesty, which said it spent two years interviewing victims’ families, witnesses, rights organisations, political activists and church-based community groups.

“Papua is one of Indonesia’s black holes for human rights. This is a region where security forces have for years been allowed to kill women, men and children, with no prospects of being held to account,” Amnesty Indonesia executive director Usman Hamid said in a statement. “This culture of impunity within the security forces must change, and those responsible for past deaths held to account.”

Muhammad Aidi, the army’s spokesman for Papua province, said the allegations of unlawful killings and excessive force by security forces were inaccurate. “Anything done by the army or police in Papua — as well as throughout Indonesia — must be legal [and] must follow legal process,” Aidi told AFP.

Amnesty said 39 deaths were linked to peaceful political activities including raising the Morning Star, Papua’s banned flag. Another 56 killings involved excessive use of force by the army or police and were unrelated to calls for independence.

Some of the violence has been centred on protests against a huge gold and copper mine owned by US-based firm Freeport McMoRan — a frequent flashpoint in the local struggle for independence and a bigger share of the region’s rich resources.

President Joko Widodo promised to improve human rights in Papua after taking office in 2014, but Amnesty says he has not lived up to his pledge. It urged the Indonesian government to immediately investigate alleged killings and rights violations, as well as review tactics used by security forces.

Indonesia ‘anti-LGBT abuses’ fuel HIV cases: Human Rights Watch

A crackdown on Indonesia’s LGBT community is fuelling a spike in HIV cases as at-risk people avoid prevention services or seeking treatment, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Monday.

Conservative politicians and hardline Islamist groups have been increasingly vocal against the vulnerable community in recent years, while lawmakers eyed outlawing gay sex in the world’s biggest Muslim majority country.

Police conducted “arbitrary and unlawful” raids on places frequented by LGBT people including saunas, night clubs, hotel rooms, hair salons, and even private homes, HRW said.

That has discouraged some at-risk groups from accessing prevention and treatment services, according to the report entitled “‘Scared in Public and Now No Privacy’: Human Rights and Public Health Impacts of Indonesia’s Anti-LGBT Moral Panic.” As a result, HIV rates among men who have sex with other men have soared five-fold since 2007 from 5.0 per cent to 25 per cent, HRW said, adding that the group accounted for one-third of Indonesia’s new infections.

“The Indonesian government’s failure to address anti-LGBT moral panic is having dire consequences for public health,” said Kyle Knight, LGBT rights researcher at Human Rights Watch and the report’s author. “The Indonesian government should recognise that its role in abuses against LGBT people is seriously compromising the country’s response to HIV.”

Indonesia’s conservative lurch has dented the success it had in slowing new HIV infections in recent decades, HRW said. Indonesia had about 48,000 new HIV infections and 38,000 AIDS-related deaths in 2016, with only 13 per cent of those infected getting treatment, according to UN figures.

Last year, Indonesian police rounded up at least 300 people and often publicly humiliated them because of their presumed sexual orientation and gender identity — a jump from previous years and the highest such number ever recorded.

In a case that grabbed global headlines, police in conservative Aceh province this year raided several beauty parlours where they rounded up a group of transgender women.

The authorities then forcibly cut the beauticians’ hair and made them wear “male” clothing in a humiliating public display. The raids have led to the closure of establishments where outreach workers would often meet and counsel gay men, provide condoms and offer voluntary HIV tests.

Published in Dawn, July 3rd, 2018