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Indonesia police demote officers who fired at Papuan crowd

September 12, 2017 - 4:38 AM

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Indonesian police have demoted two officers who fired at a crowd of protesting Papuan villagers, killing one man, in a decision that rights groups said was too lenient and shows a chronic lack of accountability for abuses in Papua.

Papua province police spokesman Ahmad Musthofa Kamal said Tuesday that a national police ethics panel made the decision two weeks ago after an investigation into the Aug. 1 shooting by paramilitary police. The officers were demoted for two years and also ordered to make public apologies.

The confrontation between police and villagers erupted after workers at a company in a remote area refused to take a dying villager to hospital. A 28-year-old man died in the shooting and several others were injured including two children.

Human Rights Watch said the demotions of the two officers, their platoon commander and a local police chief were a "wrist slap." Amnesty International's Indonesia executive director also condemned the ruling, local media reported.

"Until President Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo delivers on his promises to address human rights abuses in Papua, expect apologies, not justice, for future police killings of Papuans," U.S.-based Human Rights Watch said in a statement.

Indonesia maintains a significant police and military presence in the volatile provinces of Papua and West Papua, a mineral-rich region where a decades-long separatist movement simmers and the predominantly Christian indigenous people resent an influx of Muslim Indonesians.

"The life of a Papuan is worth only an apology. This is the law in Indonesia," Victor Mambor, the editor of Papuan news site Tabloidjubi.com, wrote on Facebook.

Kamal said the two officers had misinterpreted comments from their commander during the confrontation and filled their magazines with live ammunition.

He said a criminal prosecution could not proceed because the officers' actions were akin to self-defence and witnesses refused to be questioned by investigators.

Indonesia restricts foreign journalists from reporting from its two easternmost provinces despite Jokowi's announcement in 2015 that the media were free to travel there.

News from © The Associated Press, 2017
The Associated Press

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