Responding to Amnesty report, government says it's addressing Papua rights problems

CNN Indonesia – July 2, 2018
Presidential Chief of Staff Moeldoko - Undated (CNN)
Presidential Chief of Staff Moeldoko - Undated (CNN)

Christie Stefanie, Jakarta – Presidential Chief of Staff Moeldoko says that President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo is still serious about dealing with the problem of human rights in Papua.

The statement was made in response to Amnesty International’s report on human rights violations and killings that have been carried out by the TNI and Polri (Indonesian military and police) in Papua and West Papua.

“The evaluation [in the report] covers the last 10 years so it’s not directed at the current administration. Essentially, the president has given a very clear signal, by giving absolution to political prisoners, several other have been issued. This shows the government’s serious about addressing human rights problems [in Papua]”, said Moeldoko on Monday July 2.

Amnesty International in its report titled, Don’t Bother, Just Let Him Die: Killing With Impunity in Papua, reports on the unlawful killings by security forces of 95 people in Papua and West Papua provinces over a period of eight years.

Sixty-nine out of 56 victims were killed in non-independence related incidents and 39 deaths were related to peaceful pro-independence activities such as demonstrations or raising the Morning Star independence flag.

One of the recommendations by Amnesty International is a review of the tactics used by the military and security forces in its operations in the field, including on the use of firearms.

Responding to this, Moeldoko stated that when he held the post of TNI commander five years ago, he changed the way security forces work including soldiers’ awareness of human rights.

One of these changes related to training on entering and clearing buildings in which dummies of mothers, children and other dummies were used in the operations.

“If they shot mothers especially those breastfeeding, we punished them, physical punishment. The aim was to remind them that they are not allowed to commit violations”, he said.

This training was conducted so that security personnel were aware of and respected human rights and not be afraid.

“If soldiers are afraid of human rights they won’t work. But if they respect human rights, these norms must be held in the highest respect. So it is very clear what is to be done by officers in the field”, said Moeldoko.

Based on this training, he stated that the TNI has received the appreciation of the National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM) because the level of human rights violations in Papua has declined.

Moeldoko revealed that the Indonesian Survey Institute (LSI) released the results of a survey saying that the TNI was the most trusted institution in 2015.

However he is aware that frictions in the field are indeed difficult to avoid in conflict situations or when the Free Papua Movement (OPM) is becoming more active. Security forces, said Moeldoko, will prioritise the protection and safety of civilians.

“Because on the one hand the TNI and Polri seek to protect civilians from duress and threats. On the other hand clashes will occur. But if they clearly violate [the rights] of innocent civilians, (commanders) will act firmly, including (against) officers”, he said. (wis)

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was Istana Respons Laporan Amnesty International soal Papua.]