Amnesty Urges Probe into Papua Activist Deaths
Amnesty International has urged Indonesia to probe the deaths of three Papua independence activists who were gunned down as they protested 50 years of Jakarta's control over the restive region.
Two men were killed last week at an anti-government rally in Sorong, western Papua, and a woman died in hospital on Tuesday from gunshot wounds sustained at the protest, according to Amnesty and witnesses.
Those in attendance said police had opened fire on the peaceful demonstration. However, police deny shooting the activists and say they fired over protesters' heads in retaliation for being attacked.
Indonesian authorities must "set up a comprehensive and independent investigation into allegations of unnecessary use of firearms by security forces during the protests," said Isabelle Arradon, Amnesty's Asia-Pacific deputy director.
"Failure to take action will send a message that the security forces in Papua operate above the law," she added in a statement late Thursday.
United Nations human rights chief Navi Pillay also expressed concern over the deaths.
The shootings happened on April 30 as protesters gathered to mark 50 years since Papua was placed under Indonesian control by the U.N., witnesses told an Agence France Presse journalist.
Isak Klaibin, the brother of the female victim Salomina Klaibin, 37, who was also at the demonstration, said protesters were gathering peacefully when police opened fire.
He told AFP at the scene: "There was going to be no raising of the (separatist) flag, nor reading of documents about the (rebel) movement" at the service.
"But as we were gathering, we were surprised to suddenly hear gunshots."
Abner Malagawak, 22, and Thomas Blesia, 28, died at the scene.
However, Papua police spokesman Gede Sumerta Jaya denied police had shot the activists, saying: "The shots were aimed upwards, it was self-defense because (we were) attacked."
Jaya said Salomina Klaibin was a lieutenant in the separatist Free Papua Movement (OPM), and her brother was part of a local separatist group. He said police confiscated rifles and ammunition from the scene of the protest.
Violence occasionally erupts in Papua -- the western half of New Guinea island in Indonesia's extreme east -- where separatists have for decades fought a low-level insurgency on behalf of the mostly ethnic Melanesian population.