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Indonesia: Dozens killed following clashes between protesters and police in Papua

Amnesty International has called for an independent and impartial investigation in Papua after violent clashes between protesters and police yesterday left at least 24 people dead.

Protests began after an allegation was made that a teacher in the city of Wamena had allegedly used a racial slur at a local school. The teacher had reportedly scolded an indigenous Papuan student for his reading of a passage from a book, saying he read like a “monkey”.

Local police claimed that reports about the teacher’s remark were a hoax, but a clergy member from a local Christian church confirmed the racist incident had taken place on Saturday. Hundreds of high school students then took to the streets, and angry protesters yesterday burned down a government office and other buildings, as well as disrupting a local airport.

The military has confirmed that there were 16 deaths and 65 others were injured during the clashes in Wamena, while the Papua People's Assembly stated that there at least 17 people were killed. The military also stated that 14 of the victims were non-indigenous Papuans who were trapped in burning buildings.

Meanwhile, indigenous Papuan students staged a sit-in at Cendrawasih University in the city of Abepura while calling upon the local university students to join their strike. Clashes then broke between students and police, who prevented the students from staging the sit-in. Students threw stones at security forces, who later opened fire on the students.

The shootings killed three students, and wounded 20 others. A soldier was also stabbed to death by protesters during the incident. The police arrested 733 students during and after the clashes.

A clergy member from a local Christian church in the city told Amnesty Indonesia that the number could be higher, and the church estimated that approximately 20 people have been killed, some of them in violent clashes that occurred between indigenous and non-indigenous Papuans during the unrest.

Earlier today, National Police chief General Tito Karnavian said the death toll had reached 26 in Wamena.

Usman Hamid, Amnesty International Indonesia’s Executive Director, said:

“This is one of the bloodiest days in the past 20 years in Papua, claiming at least 24 lives within 24 hours.

“Indonesian authorities must initiate a prompt, impartial, independent and effective investigation into the events. Any use of force that resulted in death must be independently and thoroughly investigated.

“Those responsible for human rights violations involving criminal offences should be held accountable in fair trials, and the government must ensure that victims’ families receive adequate reparations.

“While restoring security and public order is crucial and urgent in Jayapura and Wamena, law enforcement – including the criminal investigation and prosecutions after the unrest – must be done in accordance to the applicable international human rights law standards.

“We have noted in our past reports how torture, other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and ultimately unlawful killings by security forces in Papua often occurred under the pretext of enforcing law and order. In situations like this, especially in Papua, transparency is an essential part of preventing potential abuse.”

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