Jakarta. Human rights groups in West Papua are calling on the national rights commission to investigate last Wednesday’s shooting deaths of two civilians by police.
The incident in the provincial capital, Manokwari, was sparked by a traffic accident in which a motorist hit a pedestrian and then fled the scene to the supposed safety of the headquarters of the police’s Mobile Brigade (Brimob).
A mob at the scene of the accident had allegedly threatened the motorist.
Police said the mob followed the unidentified driver back to the police station and hurled rocks at officers after police refused to hand over the motorist, prompting officers to fire into the crowd, killing two men and injuring a woman.
However, rights groups including the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) have offered a different take on the events.
“After the accident, residents set up roadblocks to catch the motorist,” Johannes Harri Maturbongs, chairman of Kontras’s Papua office, said on Monday.
“One officer was displeased [with the roadblocks] and told the others. Police then opened fire to disperse the residents and began shooting indiscriminately into the crowd.”
Johannes called for a rights investigation into the police’s conduct during the incident.
Kontras and the Papua Legal Aid Foundation have also asked the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) to launch a probe into the incident.
National Police spokesman Sr. Comr. Marwoto Soeto said although seven Brimob officers were being questioned over the shooting, “our preliminary findings indicated that the men were acting based on procedure.”
Marwoto also said there were no plans yet to question the victims or other witnesses.
Meanwhile, Manokwari Police Chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Bambang Ricky said the protesters had sparked the violence by attacking two Brimob officers.
“When our officers tried to calm down [the crowd], they were attacked,” he said. “Brigadier Amir was struck by residents in the head, while Brigadier Ismail was shot in the leg with an arrow.”
Bambang said Brimob officers had conducted raids to locate the members of the mob who assaulted the officers, and it was during those raids that residents refused to disperse and police opened fire.
One protester, Naftalia Kuan, was reportedly shot in the leg, but witnesses said he was also bleeding from the ear.
He was taken to Manokwari General Hospital, where he died shortly after.
Residents later carried his body to Manokwari Police headquarters to demand an explanation for the shooting.
A woman, identified as Antomina Kuan, was also shot and remains in critical condition. The body of another protester, Septi Kuan, was only discovered the following morning.