PUBLIC AI Index: ASA 21/72/98
UA 193/98 Fear for safety 7 July 1998
INDONESIAYopy Karma & 229 others
At least one person has been killed, 30 injured and 271 others arrested in
the course of recent operations by the security forces to break up
pro-independence demonstrations in towns across Indonesia’s easternmost
province, Irian Jaya. At least 230 people are believed to be still detained.
Information from this remote area of Indonesia is scarce and there are
conflicting reports about the number of casualties and detainees from the
various demonstrations. A clear pattern, however, is emerging regarding the
use of excessive force to break up pro-independence protests, which are taking
place in various locations in the province.
In Biak, a small island off the northern coast of Irian Jaya, a number of people
were killed and others injured when troops opened fire on a peaceful flag-raising
ceremony on 6 July 1998. It is not known how many fatalities there were.
Twenty-three people are believed to be in the local hospital. The nature of
their injuries is not known as the security forces are preventing local people
from entering the hospital.
According to a report from the news agency Agence France Presse, the regional
military commander, Colonel Agus Edyono, confirmed that live ammunition and
rubber bullets had been used during the attack. He confirmed that 20 people
were in hospital as a result of their injuries, but that he had heard of no
deaths. The local police chief, Hotman Siagian, is quoted as saying that 180
people had been arrested in connection with the demonstration. According to
one report, one of those detained is Yopy Karma, who has been shot in both
On 3 July 1998 the security forces opened fire on demonstrators at a university
in Jayapura, the capital of Irian Jaya. The protest is believed to have begun
peacefully and to have turned violent after an Indonesian intelligence officer
was spotted in the crowd and badly beaten. A law student, Steven Suripatti,
was shot in the head and is now critically ill in hospital. A schoolgirl, Corina
Onim, was also wounded by gunfire.
Forty three people were arrested in Jayapura, including two priests. All have
now been released but six people have to report daily to the security forces.
Students are still reported to be demonstrating at the university, raising
fears that there may be further arrests and casualties.
Another death occurred on 2 July, when the security forces broke up a peaceful
pro-independence demonstration outside the local parliament in Sorong in the
north west of the province. The man concerned is reported to have died of gunshot
wounds. Five others were injured.
Demonstrations connected to another flag-raising ceremony are currently
believed to be taking place in Wamena in the Baliem Valley. According to the
state news agency, Antara, 50 people have been arrested. There are serious
concerns that the security forces may resort to excessive or lethal force to
break up this demonstration.