The Guardian has revealed possible connections between the unlawful detention and torture of 14 Papuan activists in Merauke (see photo, source: Jubi) and the Indonesian police training facility Jakarta Centre for Law Enforcement Cooperation (JCLEC) in Semarang, Java Tengah Province. The police education centre is partly funded and run by the Australian Federal Police (AFP) to teach best practice counter-terrorism and counter-people smuggling techniques to Indonesia’s national police (Polri).
Merauke Police Chief, Untung Sangaji, has allegedly participated in JCLEC trainings. On 13 December 2020, officer Sangaji ordered to arrest and prosecute 14 members of the West Papua National Committee (KNPB), a Papuan civil resistance organisation advocating the right to self-determination through peaceful means. Thirteen of them were later charged with treason. Police officers reportedly beat the activists with wooden sticks (see photo below, source: Paham Papua) during the arrest and detention at the police station. One of them, Kristian Yandun (see photo on the right, source: Jubi), eventually died on 27 February 2021 during police detention. His friends claim Mr Yandun died due to the torture and lack of access to healthcare services. The twelve KNPB activists were finally released on 2 April 2021. The lawyers say the police did not have sufficient evidence for further processing of the case.
Shortly after the arrest, officer Sangaji declared in an interview with the news outlet Jubi that he would shoot the KNPB activists if they continue to carry out treasonous activities in Merauke. “If they will again engage in treasonous activities, I am going to shoot them in the legs. Yes, if they are insolent, shoot them. This is the territory of the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia”, said Sangaji.
In February 2021, human rights defenders again raised allegations of police negligence against Untung Sangaji. The Merauke police reportedly hampered access to medical attention for the activists during detention, causing Kristian Yandun’s health condition to deteriorate quickly.
The first critical question regarding the joint police activities at the AMP-funded police education centre had been raised in the Australian parliament in May. Green party senator, Janet Rice, asked whether the AFP screened participants to ensure they hadn’t committed human rights violations. The AFP’s chief operating officer, Charlotte Tressler, responded that the AFP does not conduct security vetting of JCLEC participants. Further investigations revealed that the AFP does not even have any influence on the selection of participants, as participation in the joint trainings was determined by the Indonesian Police.
Academic and co-founder of the Make West Papua Safe Campaign, Jason McLeod, calls for screening of all JCLEC participants, independent monitoring of the impact of the training, and binding policy to ensure the AFP avoids complicity in human life rights violations. “Law enforcement cooperation to stop organised crime and terrorism is important for all of us. We simply want to ensure the training does not create more effective human rights abusers in West Papua”, said McLeod.