Even by the bloody standards of Indonesia’s decades-long Papua conflict, one massacre stands out for its brutality and the seeming impunity of those behind it.
On December 8, 2014, hundreds of peaceful demonstrators were shot in Paniai district, Papua province, after Indonesian soldiers allegedly opened fire, killing four teenagers and injuring women and children. More than a dozen people were injured, including .
Their supposed provocation? He boldly protested the alleged assault of his 12-year-old local boy, who had fallen into a coma the day before, by Indonesian special forces.
Almost eight years after those events, no one has been held accountable.The Indonesian military has in the past claimed that Papuan rebels were responsible for the shootings – even the government explaining seems suspicious.
Last week, Veteran Major. Isak Sattu, who served in Paniai, was put on trial in a long-delayed case organized by the Indonesian Human Rights Commission, a government-backed agency.
But few in Paniai believe that the trial will give them the answers they seek.
The trial, which began on September 21, has not been held in Papua province, where Indonesian forces have fought separatists since the withdrawal of Dutch colonial forces in the 1960s. ) in Makassar, on the remote island of Sulawesi. Witnesses need to be present, and critics have already labeled the minutes cheated.
The public prosecutor indicted the major. Isak Sattu has been charged with crimes against humanity and committed four offenses, including a maximum prison sentence of 25 years, for failing to stop his men from taking guns from an arsenal. committed
The family has boycotted the trial, saying they do not believe justice will be served and expressing disbelief that the government has identified one suspect.
In a joint statement released on September 14, the family said it “does not match the facts”. It’s a theater court. ”
“But the truth is never defeated or covered up.”
CNN sent multiple email requests for comment to Indonesian government officials, including the office of President Joko Widodo, the military and the Indonesian Human Rights Commission, but did not receive a response.
Allegations of human rights violations against indigenous Papuans by Indonesian government forces frequently surface.
Earlier this year, a UN-appointed rights expert said that between April and November 2021, “extrajudicial killings, including of young children, enforced disappearances, torture, inhumane treatment, and the detention of at least 5,000 indigenous peoples. It said it had received allegations of displacement of Papuans between April and November 2021. Security forces.”
But pursuing allegations against the Indonesian military has traditionally proven difficult. International rights groups have complained that the area is inaccessible. UN experts have called on the Indonesian government to conduct a “full and independent investigation into human rights abuses”.
Yet despite this backdrop, the Paniai massacre came just two years after President Joko Widodo (commonly known as Jokowi) first came to power and promised change and an “open dialogue.” It stands out as particularly sensitive because it occurred after a month.
“I want to listen to people and open a dialogue for a better Papua. We also need to lean,” Jokowi said during his December 2014 inaugural address.
“One of the first things the president promised the Papuan people was to solve this case,” said Veronica Koman, an Indonesian human rights lawyer at Amnesty International.
“He also expressed his desire for dialogue to end the conflict, but these promises have not yet been fulfilled and many other Papuan children have been killed or tortured by the Indonesian military. I’m doing
According to Human Rights Watch, the 2014 protest shooting was said to have taken place the day after Special Forces soldiers attacked Yulian Yeimo. This was supposedly to punish him for yelling at one of their vehicles that drove through his village at night without their headlights on. His friends decorated his tree and nativity scenes for Christmas.
CNN was unable to independently verify details regarding the incident.
Human rights groups say authorities have neither acknowledged nor addressed what happened to Yeimo.
The beatings sparked violent protests, with hundreds of villagers coming to protest in Enarotari’s public square. Four teenagers were killed when the crowd opened fire. Simon Degay, 18. Otianus Gobai, 18 years old. Alphius Yu, 17 years old. Abia Gobey, 17 years old.
Witnesses said the shooters were Indonesian soldiers, and weeks after the attack, during an official visit to Papua, President Widodo promised the military and police would conduct a full investigation.
However, in the aftermath of the killing, Army Secretary Gen. Gatot Nurmancho denied that soldiers shot the protesters, claiming the shooting was by Papuan guerrilla fighters.
According to his family, 12-year-old Yeimo, who was beaten before the massacre, died from his injuries in 2018 and never recovered from a coma. To this day, no one has been held responsible for his death, or the deaths of those killed in the protests that followed.
Sophie Grigg, senior fellow at Survival International, a London-based charity that advocates for the rights of indigenous peoples, said progress for victims of the Paniai massacre was “glacial” and the situation “appalling”. said.
“The culture of impunity for human rights abusers in West Papua must end,” Grig said.
Human rights groups say divisions along ethnic and religious lines are fueling tensions in Papua. Indigenous Papuans tend to be darker-skinned than other Indonesians and are usually Christians rather than Muslims, the majority religion in the country.
“There is certainly an element of racism in the way Indonesian security forces treat Papuans as worthy of abuse,” said Phil Robertson, Asia deputy director at Human Rights Watch.
“Papuans’ political demands for independence represent the worst of all Indonesian governments and military,” he said.
“The underlying problem is discrimination and racism against indigenous Papuans by Indonesian officials (army, police, judges), resulting in a culture of impunity that protects human rights abuses and abuses. .”
Papua, Papuan independence supporters say the vote was neither free nor fair.
Separatist sentiment remains, and its expression can be found not only in the armed Free Papua Movement, but also in the wider civil protests. Eruption in 2019 developed into a civil resistance movement Strict Papua becomes independent from Indonesia.Public outrage is also fueled by a controversial law Passed in July The Indonesian parliament has proposed the creation of three new provinces in Papua. Critics said the move would take power away from indigenous peoples.
Despite the trial beginning, many unknowns remain surrounding the events of December 8, 2014.
The Indonesian government has banned independent reporting from inside Papua, and the area has been off limits to foreign journalists for decades. CNN was unable to independently verify several accounts highlighted in this article.
“The big question is whether this trial is the start of something else, or just an effort to provide a scapegoat to divert international attention before world leaders go to Indonesia. is. G-20 (November meeting)” said Robertson of Human Rights Watch.
“foreign leader Indonesia should be pressed hard for what is happening in Papua and not be distracted by a trial that merely scratches the surface of what needs to be done to rectify Papua’s wrongs. ”
Human Rights Watch Indonesian researcher Andreas Harsono added:
“One veteran will be brought to justice, but many lives were lost that day,” he said.
“Who was the commander who gave the order to shoot the protesters? Where are the others responsible?”