23 Nov 2004

Kopassus activities in Indonesia's Papua may be probed by human rights watchdog

5:42 pm on 23 November 2004

Indonesia's human rights watchdog may launch an investigation in Papua province following fighting which has left eight people dead and forced thousands to flee gunmen said to be covert members of the notorious Kopassus commando unit.

A coalition of activists, churches and student organisations has urged Indonesia's National Commission on Human Rights, known as Komnas HAM, to set up a fact-finding team to investigate a series of shootings in the province.

Eight people, including a church minister and a police officer, were killed in a series of attacks by unidentified gunmen between August 17 and November 12 this year in Puncak Jaya regency.

The coalition says another 15, mostly children, died when more than 5,000 residents from 27 villages fled into the forests fearing further attacks by the gunmen.

Aloysious Renuaren, from the Jayapura-based rights group Elsham, said local people believe the gunmen are members of Kopassus.

The police and military are blaming separatist rebels belonging to the Free Papua Movement for the shootings, but rights activists, tribal and religious leaders blame the military.