Corona prevention policies increase violence – Security force members leave three indigenous Papuans injured in Paniai

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On 25 May 2020, police officers killed Justinus Dimara in Jayapura as they dispersed a group of Papuans who had violated contact restrictions and distance requirements, which the local government imposed for the prevention of COVID-19. Now, the enforcement of Corona prevention policies has resulted in a further case of security force violence against indigenous Papuans in the regency of Paniai. The Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Office of the Papuan Tabernacle Church (JPIC Kingmi Papua) reported that joint security force members ill-treated 29-year old Sarah Yeimo and subsequently tortured Yosia Magai (24 years) and Yupen Magai (28 years) at a roadblock near the Uwibutu Hospital on 10 June 2020. All three victims sustained injuries and had to be hospitalised. The control post with a roadblock (see image below on the right) had been set up by the local government to prevent people that live outside of Paniai to enter the regency.

Road Block PaniaiAround 3.15 pm, Sarah Yeimo wanted to pass the control post, which is located in Wouye Butu village of the Paniai Timur district. At that time the post was guarded by five police officers. She passed the control post several meters next to the roadblock barrier. When the officers saw her, they deliberately closed the barrier, causing the edge of the iron barrier to spike deeply into Sarah Yeimo’s foot (see intro image). She sat down and cried in pain. Several relatives and other bystanders witnessed the incident and protested against the misconduct of the officers. Thereupon, Yosia Magai accompanied Sarah Yeimo to the Uwibutu Hospital Emergency Unit.

Meanwhile, eight bystanders broke the iron barrier as protest against the ill-treatment of Sarah Yeimo. The police officers reacted by calling for back-up immediately. Shortly after, members of the Police Mobile Brigade (Brimob), the Crowd Control Unit (Dalmas) of the Paniai District Police and military members arrived at the location and chased after the bystanders who had damaged the roadblock. However, the security forces failed to arrest the vandals, so they started questioning witnesses. As one of the witnesses pointed to Yupen Magai, a group of security force members approached him and collectively tortured him (see table below) until he lost consciousness. The torture appeared to be an act of punishment for the damaged roadblock. Thereupon, the security force members dragged him to the emergency room where Yupen received medical treatment.

Victim Yosia MagaiSubsequently, three plain cloth officers went inside the hospital to look for Sarah Yeimo. The officers entered the emergency unit, approached Yosia Magai, who was standing next to Sarah Yeimo and began to punch him. He fell on the ground. The plain cloth officers dragged him outside the hospital, where a mob of approximately 20 security force officers collectively kicked and punched Yosia Magai until he lost consciousness (see table below). The security force members subsequently dragged him as well to the emergency unit where Yosia Magai received medical treatment (see image on the left).

The Papuan Police Chief, Paulus Waterpauw, claimed in a media interview on 11 June 2020, that Sarah Yeimo injured her foot accidentally on barbed wire as she passed the roadblock through a trench. He did not make any statement regarding the allegations of torture.

Table with victims of security force violence in the Paniai Regency on 10 June 2020

No

Name

Age

Gender

Additional information

1

Sarah Yeimo

29 years

female

Sustained a deep cut in the left foot as police officers deliberately lowered the barrier, causing the edge of the iron barrier to spike into her foot.

2

Yupen Magai

28 years

male

Sustained bruises on both eyes until the eyes were severely swollen. He also sustained an intense nose bleeding. Security force members three times stroke him with rifle butts to the left ribs and twice to the back of the head. He immediately lost consciousness. Mr Magai had difficulties in breathing for several days after the torture.

3

Yosia Magai

24 years

Male

Three plain cloth officers repeatedly punched him in the face. Approximately 20 security force members collectively punched and kicked him with combat boots in the left and right ribs, the back of the head and the face until he lost consciousness. He sustained bruises on both ribs and the face, as well as a cut near the left eye, which needed stitches.