9 Jun 2012

Thousands of villagers in Papua's Wamena town flee due to violence

8:10 am on 9 June 2012

A violent rampage by Indonesian soldiers in the town of Wamena in Papua province has sent thousands of residents fleeing to the bush.

At least one person is confirmed to have been killed and several seriously injured by the soldiers from the Baliem Valley-based Battalion 756.

Combat troops flooded into Wamena late on Wednesday after two soldiers had earlier been attacked, one fatally, in retaliation for killing a Papuan boy in a road accident that day.

The head of Papua's Baptist church, Reverend Socratez Sofyan Yoman, says members of his church in Wamena have relayed accounts of homes being destroyed by soldiers angered by the death of their comrade.

"Not only the burning of houses, but they tortured and shot a lot of people who are very seriously injured in hospital."

Socratez Sofyan Yoman.

Amnesty International says Indonesian authorities must ensure a prompt, independent and impartial investigation into the reports of violence in Wamena.

The international human rights organisation says persons suspected of committing violent crimes, including against members of security forces, must be brought to justice.

However, it says suspects must be identified individually for arrest and prosecution in accordance with the law - there is no place for collective punishment and random, vindictive violence.

The human rights group acknowledges the difficulties faced by security forces in Indonesia, especially when confronted with violence.

But it says power of law enforcement officials to use force is restricted by relevant international human rights law and standards, the basis of which is the need to respect and protect the right to life.