INDONESIA: Police officers in Nabire assault three Papuans over a petty fight

According to an activist of KINGMI (Gospel Tabernacle Church) Papua, Gilion Somau visited a futsal pitch in Kalibobo, Nabire, in the morning of 14 March 2014. Gilion and his two brothers, Jery Somau and Nicolaus Somau, were waiting for their turn to play futsal (mini football) in the pitch which at that time was used by several officers attached to the Mobile Brigadier of the Indonesian National Police. Gilion Somau mentioned in an interview that he and Jery did not disturb the officers who were playing futsal. The officers, instead, provoked them by yelling ‘hey, hey, hey’ at them which was welcome by Jery with a similar response. Offended by such response, around 20 police officers assaulted Jery. As a result, Jery’s eyes and nose were bruised and his lips were bleeding. Gilion, meanwhile, attempted to run for his life. It was reported that one of the officers opened fire when the chaotic event happened.
Gilion and Jery’s brother, Nicolaus Somau, was outside the futsal pitch when the incident took place. He was about to enter the futsal pitch when an officer stabbed him with a bayonet in his back. The local activist reported that, following the incident, more police officers in two trucks and several patrol cars arrived and start firing. The police managed to arrest Gilion and Jery and took them to Nabire District Police station. Gilion was put in a dark cell where an officer stabbed his bayonet into his left eye brow. According to Gilion, the officer wanted to take his eye ball out but his superior prevented him from doing so. The officer also tried to stab his head with a bayonet twice. Gilion, however, managed to stop it but suffered two minor cuts and the little finger of his left hand was wounded.
Meanwhile, injured Nicolas Somau was taken to Siriwini Public Hospital in Nabire by a stranger. He received 38 stitches in his back as a result of the stabbing perpetrated by an unidentified police officer. He had been taken home by the family and is currently receiving traditional medical treatment. On the next day, 15 March 2014, Gilion and Jery were released without charge.
The Chief of Nabire District Police, Tagor Hutapea, has confirmed that his subordinates were involved in a fight with several ‘drunk youths’ at Kalibobo futsal pitch. He has also confirmed that one of the youths was stabbed and received medical treatment at a public hospital in Nabire. However, he insisted that his subordinates were ‘forced to fight back as the youth group mugged them and set their two motorcycles to fire’. Yet such statement has not been supported by any proof or similar claim of the witnesses.
This is not the first case in Indonesia in which civilians are assaulted, shot, or tortured by police or military officers merely due to petty fights. Following their fight with five Papuan men in Degeuwo in May 2012, for instance, three police officers opened fire, resulting in the death of one of them and the injury of four others. Similarly, Irwan Wenda was shot dead by a police officer after the latter was offended with random statements delivered by the former. In August 2013, Bintang Papua journalist Andreas Badii was beaten on his head simply because he was teasing a police officer. Two months later, Nahor Stefanus Yalak was arrested and tortured for getting drunk and creating noise.
The Chief of the Indonesian National Police issued a regulation calling for all his members to respect human rights in 2009. Despite the astonishing articles under the regulation, police officers who perpetrated human rights abuses such as torture are hardly taken to the criminal court and criminally punished. The complaints from the victims are likely to end up being examined by the non-transparent internal monitoring mechanism within the police – the Security and Professionalism Division – or not being investigated at all. In rare occasions where the perpetrators are criminally tried and punishment, the sentences imposed are typically inadequate, ranging from only months to 5 years of imprisonment.