Jayapura Justice and Peace Office alleges abuse in Papua
The Jayapura Diocese Office of Justice and Peace has accused Indonesian police of torturing 23 Papuans arrested after violent protests in March, alleging cases of physical and mental abuse, and intimidation of prisoners.
The Sydney Morning Herald reports that the 23 were arrested in March after demonstrating outside Cendrawasih University in Papua's provincial capital Jayapura.
The student protesters had demanded the closure of the giant US-run Freeport copper mine because of environmental damage and the lack of benefits going to local Papuans.
Four policemen, an air force soldier and a civilian were killed in the riots on 16 March, prompting hundreds of students to flee their homes and dormitories in fear of reprisals by security forces.
The Office said its staff and representatives from other church groups interviewed three of the 23 detainees at the regional police cells in Jayapura.
The prisoners said wounds on their faces were sustained during days of police interrogation and they were being kept in crowded cells, the report noted. One prisoner said they had been tortured for information during the first few weeks and a senior police officer had threatened to shoot him and had aimed a gun at his mouth.
Prisoners also told interviewers they had not seen their legal counsel appointed by the authorities and so were at a loss when they fronted up in court.
Two of them said they were maltreated by police two hours before the court hearing started, in a bid to get them to confess they were involved in the deaths of the police officers and air force soldier.
"They were kicked with army boots, struck on the head and body with rifle butts and rubber truncheons," the report said.
During hearings at the Jayapura District Court involving 16 of the detainees, judges put questions to police witnesses and gave answers for them that were detrimental to the accused, the report said.
Judges and prosecutors had not upheld basic principles of fair and honest hearings, which were held amidst heavy security in an "atmosphere of terror and fear for the accused", the report said.
The authors of the report urged authorities "not to treat the legal process as if it were an act of vengeance for the members of police force who died in the performance of their duties" but to ascertain the truth behind the conflict in March.
The claims coincided with the Batam summit between Prime Minister John Howard and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, called over Australia's policy towards Papua asylum seekers.
Papuans 'tortured by police' in Jayapura (Sydney Morning Herald 26/6/06)
LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Hampapua, Human Resources Website of Catholic diocese of Jayapura and Franciscan Friars of West Papua
Nun identifies key to understanding West Papua tension (CathNews 13/4/06)
'Repeat of Timor' fear for West Papua (CathNews 2/2/06)
27 Jun 2006