Indonesia: Government should investigate shooting of children in Intan Jaya, Papua

  • Two children were shot, one fatally, during a gunfight between armed groups and Indonesian security forces in Intan Jaya regency, Papua province
  • Local residents told Amnesty International they believed shots came from nearby military command post
  • Hundreds of residents fled to churches

The Indonesian government should promptly, thoroughly, independently, transparently and effectively investigate the death of one child and the injury to another after two children were shot amid a gunfight between armed groups and Indonesian security forces in Intan Jaya regency, Papua Province, said Amnesty International.

Amnesty International talked to seven persons about the recent gunfight in Intan Jaya regency. They said that one of the victims, a two-year-old child, died hours after the shooting. The sources also told Amnesty International that they believed the shots that struck the victims came from the direction of a nearby military command post.

“Authorities must conduct a prompt, thorough, independent, transparent and effective investigation into the shooting,” Amnesty International’s Indonesia Executive Director Usman Hamid said. “Anyone suspected to be responsible must be brought to justice in fair trial. Authorities must ensure access to justice and effective remedies for the victims and their families.”

Children caught up in gunfight

The two children were shot during a gunfight between Indonesian security forces and armed groups on the evening of 26 October 2021.

Local sources told Amnesty International that the victims were at home in a residential area near the Koramil (military command) post in Sugapa district when the shooting took place. The Koramil post is situated in an elevated area, while the houses are about 200 meters away on lower ground.

One of the victims, a two-year old child (NS), was hit in the stomach. Photos obtained by Amnesty International show a bullet wound in the child’s stomach. According to local sources, he died the following morning. The second victim, a six-year-old child, was shot in the back. Amnesty International obtained photos showing the injury.

The two children were reportedly brought to the local health unit immediately after being shot, but they did not receive medical treatment because no health workers were present. Local sources told Amnesty International that the six-year-old survivor is currently in hospital.

Local sources have expressed concern that Indonesian military forces may have entered the residential area to seek retribution after a soldier was injured in a shootout with an armed group in the area earlier on Tuesday. According to monitoring by Amnesty International, when a shootout between the military and Papuan armed groups results in military casualties, security forces often seek out members of armed groups in nearby residential areas, which often results in civilian deaths.

The Papuan police claimed on Wednesday that the two children were shot by an armed group while they were outside their homes.

The situation in Sugapa district remains tense. Local sources told Amnesty International that the gunfight between armed groups and Indonesian security forces started on Monday evening (25 October) and continued on 29 October. As the conflict escalated, hundreds of villagers in Intan Jaya fled their homes to churches.

“The government should protect civilian lives, including children, during security operations and provide medical and humanitarian assistance to those affected,” said Richard Pearshouse, head of Crisis and Environment for Amnesty International.

The intensification of conflict in Intan Jaya

This incident is the most recent civilian casualty in a wider intensification of armed conflict in Intan Jaya over the last two years.

Since early October 2021, Sem Kobogau, a civilian resident in Sugapa district, has been missing. Local media reported that Sem Kobogau was arrested by four TNI members on 5 October 2021.

In September 2020, Rev. Yeremia Zanambani, a 68-year-old senior pastor in Intan Jaya, was allegedly shot, stabbed and killed by an Indonesian soldier. The National Commission on Human Rights’ investigations stated that members of the military were involved in the killing. The authorities have conducted an autopsy on his body, but are yet to announce the result. Yeremia’s family are demanding that the case be brought to Indonesia’s human rights court. A criminal investigation into the killing, however, has stalled for nearly a year.

“The increasing number of civilian casualties shows that the current approach is clearly ineffective in maintaining security in Papua,” said Usman. “We urge the government to reconsider its security tactics in Papua to end the cycle of violence that has caused so many civilian deaths.”