Police officers shoot two indigenous Papuans in Deiyai Regency – one victim dead another injured

According to information received from the Secretariat for Justice and Peace (SKP) of the catholic deanery in Tigi, police officers have shot dead Yulianus Mote (18 years) and severely injured Melianus Dogopia (18 years) during two related incidents in the regency of Deiyai. The Jakarta Post and local media outlets published articles on the shootings, which occurred in relation to the burning of the police station in Tigi district.  On 21 May 2019, around 12.00 pm, a group of four young indigenous men stopped a public transportation vehicle and asked for 10.000 IDR (approximately 60 Eurocents) for cigarettes. All four were allegedly intoxicated. However, as the driver refused to give any money and the young men still did not allow the car to pass, the driver pulled a knife attempting to attack the four men. Being angry about the assault, the young men broke the windshield of the car.

It is believed that the driver reported the incident to the Tigi police station. However, witnesses saw that police officers spoke in a patrol car spoke with Melianus and his friends shortly after the dispute. Thereupon, the friends brought Melianus Dogopia home to Timipotu Village. The police officers allegedly followed the friends to Timipotu Village. As Melianus left his house around 5.30 pm and saw the patrol car, he approached the police officers and started to argue with them. Local residents claim that the police failed to control the situation through non-violent means and instead released a shot at Melianus Dogopia. Melianus sustained a bullet wound on the thigh and was hospitalized in the general hospital in Waghete. He was later transferred to the Siriwini General Hospital in the city of Nabire because the Waghete hospital did not have the medical capacities to remove the bullet. The police claimed that Melianus Dogopia allegedly damaged the police car and attacked the officers with bow and arrow.

The shooting triggered a subsequent mob attack on the Tigi Sub-district Police Station. One hour after the incident, an angry mob of relatives and villagers attacked the police station, setting parts of the building and several police vehicles on fire. Police officers forcefully dispersed the crowd using life ammunition and tear gas. After the attack, joint security forces conducted raids in several areas of Waghete district. Yulianus Mote sustained a bullet injury on the head. He was reportedly shot around 10.00 pm near the Bank Papua branch office in Idege Village and died on the spot as a result of the injury.

Mr Ahmad Mustofa Kamal, the spokesperson of the Papua Regional Police (POLDA Papua), denied the killing of Yulianus Mote but confirmed the shooting of Melianus Dogopia in an interview with journalists on 22 May 2019. Kamal announced that the regional police will conduct a police internal investigation in the case. According to Kamal, a team of police officers was seconded to Tigi to investigate the case and counsel two women and a ten-year-old girl, who had allegedly been sexually assaulted during the attack on the Tigi police station. The cases of sexual assault remain unverified until the current stage of the investigation.

The victims’ families said they reject any settlement of the case outside the law through a compensation payment as it is commonly practiced by police and military to avoid legal consequences for the perpetrators. They demanded authorities to initiate a prompt and effective legal prosecution against the perpetrators. Yulianus Mote’s family members buried his body in front of the Tigi Sub-district police station as a symbolic act for the police violence.