Yakobus Pekey lies lifeless after being allegedly shot by security forces during a protest in Indonesia’s Papua province on July 13. (Photo supplied)

By UCA News reporter

Jul 20 2023

Catholic officials and rights activists have called for a thorough investigation into the shooting and subsequent rioting in conflict-ridden, Christian-majority Papua region that left three civilians killed and seven injured.

Emanuel Gobay, director of the Papua Legal Aid Institute told UCA News on July 19 that “an objective investigation is needed to reach objective conclusions” that can provide a sense of justice to all of society, including the victims’ families.

In a report sent to UCA News, Papua-based Franciscan Secretariat for Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation said a riot broke out after a resident, Yosua Keiya, 20, died on July 13 after being shot in the chest by security forces in Dogiyai district.

The riot erupted as the victim’s family, and the mob demanded accountability for the shooting. Security forces fired at the protesters, leaving two others, Stepanus Pigome, 19, and Yakobus Pekey, 20, dead, while seven other people were seriously injured, the report stated. 

A driver and several security officers were injured, while several residents’ houses were burned.

Papua Regional Police said in a statement that the shooting was carried out because Keiya was drunk and attacked a passing security officer’s vehicle.

The Franciscans’ report, which also included eyewitness testimonies, dismissed the police’s explanation.

It said Keiya was not involved in barring the security forces’ vehicles, but “was shot by officers from inside the car for no apparent reason.” 

Gobay stated that an independent investigation team was needed to examine this case considering the disputed claims.

He also requested that the National Commission for Human Rights “immediately form a team to monitor the law enforcement process carried out by the police.”

He also asked the police to immediately announce the results of the investigation to reveal the motives behind the shooting and asked the Dogiyai district government to immediately provide compensation to the civilians whose houses were burned down in the riot.

Mathius D Fahiri, head of the Papua Provincial Police had dispatched two main officials to investigate the incident,  the Head of the Operations Bureau and the Head of Professionals and Security.

“If the investigation finds an alleged mistake by members of the police, causing people or civilians to die, then the Head of Professionals and Security will immediately take firm action in accordance with existing law,” he told reporters.

Augustinian Father Bernard Baru from Jayapura diocese’s Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation Commission said the shooting was “a form of extrajudicial killings that appears to be a scheme of the state’s political and security plans.”

He said, even though the civilians were deemed to have made a mistake, as claimed by the security forces, “there is no reason to shoot them dead immediately.”

“It seems that the choice to shoot dead immediately was because it had been set that the apparatus who did it would not be punished, as has happened in other cases of civilian killings so far,” he told UCA News.

“This incident also shows that Papua is not safe, in stark contrast to President Joko Widodo’s recent claim that Papua is 99 percent safe,” he said. 

Father Baru said that the Papuan people need solidarity in the midst of this situation, “to stand with us against the violations of human rights and the right to life that continue to happen.”

“We need attention from the international community, including the Vatican. Don’t keep silent,” he said.

Nonble Pekey, a relative of Yakobus Pekey, said the perpetrators should be held accountable as those who were shot dead “were not animals, but humans.”

“The family has made a firm statement, the perpetrators must be dismissed,” he said as quoted by Jubi.id.

Papua declared independence in 1961 after the end of Dutch colonial rule. Indonesia annexed Papua two years later, promising an independence referendum. The subsequent voting in favor of staying as part of Indonesia was widely considered a sham.

This triggered a deadly pro-independence insurgency and the government responded with the deployment of the military.

In the past five years, at least 179 people have died in dozens of cases of extrajudicial killings involving security forces and Papuan pro-independence groups, according to Amnesty International. – UCA News