Indonesia army accused of unlawful killings in Papua

Amnesty International report alleges nearly 100 people have been unlawfully killed by the army in the past eight years.

Jakarta, Indonesia – Alpius Youw had many talents and his relatives predicted he would become someone important in Paniai in the Papuan highlands.

But the life of the 18-year-old volleyball player was cut short when he was killed in December 2014 by security forces. Three other teenage boys also died.

Soldiers and police had fired into a crowd of about 100 people performing a traditional war dance and protesting military treatment a day earlier.

The killings in Paniai occurred just after Joko Widodo was inaugurated as president of Indonesia.

He immediately vowed that the law would be upheld and perpetrators brought to justice.

However, more than three years later his promise have yet to be fulfilled. The killings in Paniai is just one case of many in Papua.

Nearly 100 people have been killed in the past eight years in what Amnesty International describes as unlawful killings.

The victims are mainly civilians who were protesting peacefully or villagers attacked randomly including a disabled man and several toddlers.


The Amnesty report Don’t bother, just let him die has come at a sensitive time for Indonesia.

The country has just been elected as a non-permanent members of the UN Security Council and killings in Papua are an unwelcome reminder that rights abuses are still happening and impunity of those committing violence common.

But police and military deny unlawful killings have happened.

“We have operating procedures and if there are threats we follow these procedures. Many police and civilians have become victims in Papua, what about them? Is being suggested that killings only have been committed by police and military. What about police and military being killed,” national police spokesperson Setyo Wasisto said.

Low-key armed struggle

Papua has a long history of violence and a military crackdown of a low-key armed battle for independence has claimed many lives in the past decades.

Hundreds of activists were arrested or killed for raising the independence flag and attending protest rallies.

“The government of President Joko Widodo has failed the test in Papua and has so far not solved the human rights violations,” says Amnesty’s Indonesia director Usman Hamid.

The far eastern region only became part of Indonesia in the 1960’s after Indonesia organised a referendum which historians have called a sham. In the 1960’s the American company Freeport started operating the world’s largest gold mine in Papua, which has created resentment among its population.


When he took office in 2014, Joko Widodo promised that compared with his predecessors he would really make a change in Papua.

He released most political prisoners shortly after the start of his term and visited the area numerous times.

His government is building roads and markets to improve welfare in the most impoverished part of the country.

However, Hamid says his focus on development and infrastructure has created a blind spot for human rights.

“While in his first few years as president he seemed serious to look into abuses no he can’t afford to alienate the military in this politically important period one year before presidential elections.”