Security approach in Papua should be reevaluated in light of latest murders: Observer

Source – September 2, 2022
Mutilated body parts being removed from Pigapu Village River – Undated (OposisiCerdas)

Aryo Putranto Saptohutomo, Jakarta – Military observer Al Araf believes that the case of the Army personnel who were involved in the mutilation and murder of four civilians in Mimika should be used as a consideration for the government to reevaluate the military approach in resolving the conflict in Papua.

"It is important for the government to reevaluate the security policies and military operations in Papua as an approach to settle the conflict", said Araf when contacted by on Thursday September 1.

The chairperson of the Centra Initiative management board and senior investigator with Indonesian Human Rights Watch (Imparsial) said that the government must focus on preparing other solutions to settle the conflict in Papua other then deploying military force.

He believes that the military approach which has been employed for years and years has still never resolved the roots of the problem.

"The government must focus on developing a new way to settle the Papua conflict by peaceful means and through peaceful dialogue", said Araf.

Araf believes that the most objective mechanism to try the murder and mutilation case is through a public trial. This however cannot be applied because trying military personnel and civilians has to be done separately.

"Although there is the obstacle of active military personnel being subject to a military trial, this does not mean that they cannot be tried in a public trial", said Araf.

According to National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM), there have been 1,182 incidents of violence in Papua between 2020 and 2021.

Komnas HAM has stated that the parties committing the violence in Papua over this period were the TNI (Indonesian military) and the Polri (Indonesian police) along with the Free Papua Organisation (OPM) or armed criminal groups (KKB).

Out of this total, as many as 41.31 percent of cases were related to the work of the police.

According to Komnas HAM Commissioner Choirul Anam, the forms of violence against civilians in Papua include armed contacts, shootings, assault with sharp weapons, fires and damage to goods and property.

In addition to this, the acts of violence committed by the TNI/Polri and the OPM/KKB have also claimed lives. According to Anam's records, 24 people died out of 47 people who were victims of violence in Papua in 2020-2021.

There is also concern that the recent case of the murder and mutilation of civilians by members of the Army will trigger new tensions between the security forces and local populations.

Speaking separately, Jakarta Legal Aid Foundation (LBH) public defender Teo Reffelsen believes that the actions of those who committed the mutilations were general crimes so they must be prosecuted in a public trial as regulated under Article 65 Paragraph (2) of Law Number 34/2004 on the TNI.

"We emphasise that all of them must be prosecuted and tried through a judicial process which is fair, free and unbias, so that the entire process can be monitored by the public and to ensure the fulfillment of the victims' and the families' rights along with preventing impunity from happening", said Reffelsen during a press conference on Wednesday August 31.

Aside from urging that the six TNI personnel to be tried in a public court, the LBH Jakarta is also urged that the involvement of independent institutions such the Komnas HAM.

"Or if necessary the government could form a joint fact finding team (TGPF) which is directly responsible to the president to ensure that the entire process is transparent and accountable", said Reffelsen.

The Komnas HAM has also conveyed a view on the desire for openness in handling the case. Choirul Anam has praised the TNI for moving quickly to deal with the case, declaring several people as suspects and announcing this to the public.

To reinforce this however, Anam hopes that the legal process against the TNI personnel who are suspects in the mutilation case will be open and transparent.

"A good intent must be shown by our TNI friends, in what way? A legal process (which is) transparent, accountable", Anam told on Tuesday August 30.

According to TNI commander General Andika Perkasa, so far the number of Army personnel who were allegedly involved in the robbery, murder and mutilation of the victims has grown to eight people.

Two other rogue members from the Army are suspected of accepting 250 million rupiah in stolen money belonging to the victims.

"From the results of the investigation which is being conducted, there are two more people who we have questioned. These two also enjoyed the proceeds of the crime", said Perkasa on Wednesday evening.

According to Perkasa, the six TNI members who have now been declared as suspects in the case are two infantry officers, namely Infantry Major HF Infantry Captain DK, along with Master Private PR and Privates First-Class RAS, RPC and R.

The four civilian suspects meanwhile are APL alias J, DU, R and RMH, who are being dealt with by the police.

“Meanwhile their motive was money", said Army military police central commander (Danpuspomad) Lieutenant General Chandra W Sukotjo when contacted by on Tuesday evening.

While the case is being developed, the six Army personnel will be detained temporarily for 20 days from August 29 to September 17. The six are being held at the Mimika XVII/C Military Police Sub-Detachment detention centre.

Sukotjo said that the six are being temporarily detained in order to facilitate questioning and the investigation, as well as to resolve the case sooner. "We are endeavoring to fully resolve this case as quickly as possible", asserted the three-star general.

The suspects are believed to have intended to rob the victims by luring the four with the enticement of selling AK-47 assault rifles. The four victims brought money amounting to 250 million rupiah in accordance with the value of the weapons to be sold.

The victims and the perpetrators then met in New Mimika district on August 22 at around 9.50 pm local time. The perpetrators however, killed them instead of making the exchange.

The bodies of three of the victims have been identified as Arnold Lokbere, Irian Nirigi and Leman Nirigi. The forth body meanwhile, has not yet been identified. One of the victims is said to be a village head in Nduga district and a KKB sympathiser.

Following the murders, the perpetrators loaded the bodies onto the victims' truck and took them to the Pigapu Village River in Iwaka district for disposal.

Prior to being disposed of in the river, all the bodies were mutilated and placed in sacks. The perpetrators then headed to the road leading into Galian C Kali Iwaka to burn the Toyota Calya car rented by the victims.

The next day, the perpetrators again gathered at a warehouse owned by APL and divided up the 250 million rupiah.

On the same day, police found the victims' burnt out vehicle and on Friday August 26 local community members and police found one of the victims known by the initials AL.

One day later, on Saturday August 27, local community members found another body in the Pigapu Village River. Police then found yet another mutilated body in the river on Monday August 29.

It is now reported that all the bodies of the victims have been found and a forensic team has been brought in from Jayapura to carry out the autopsies.

-- By Achmad Nasrudin Yahya, Singgih Wiryono, Dian Erika Nugraheny and Jayapura contributor Dhias Suwandi]

[Translated by James Balowski. The last section of the article on the chronology of events was abridged slightly due to repetition. The original title of the article was "Kasus Mutilasi di Tengah Upaya Mencari Solusi Damai Konflik Papua".]