Impunity: Military members acquitted despite involvement in killing of two Papuans

On 05 September 2023, a panel of Military Oditur III-13 Denpasar judges acquitted Sergeant Vicente De Oliviara and Private Bahari Muhrim (see photo on top, source: screenshot) of their charges. The judges argued that the defendants had been proven to have committed the crime but acted as a necessary act of “self-defence.” Both are members of the Yonif Raider Udayana 900/SBW Unit. They were accused of killing two indigenous Papuans, Mr Eden Bebari and Mr Ronny Wandik, in the Mimika Regency in April 2020. The acquittal of both defendants is a second slap in the face of the victims’ relatives after the military prosecutor had demanded a sentence of two years imprisonment and dismissal from the Army during the previous court session on 29 August 2023. The relatives hope that the military prosecutor will appeal against the verdict.

The lenient verdict raises concerns and questions about the Indonesian military justice system among human rights defenders. Previously, two other military members had been found guilty of their involvement in the killing of Mr Eden Bebari and Mr Ronny Wandik in a second trial at the Military Court III-17 in the city of Manado, North Sulawesi. Lieutenant Inf Gabriel Bowie Wijaya was sentenced to seven years, and Private Sugi Harnoto received a six-year sentence. The verdict was delivered on 6 July 2023.

The Papuan Association of Human Rights Advocates (PAHAM Papua) highlights the discrepancies in the outcome of the two separate trials concerning the killing of Mr Bebari and Mr Wandik.  Paham Papua assessed that the verdict was very different from the indictment. Both defendants were charged with the murder of Eden Bebari and Ronny Wandik on two counts. The first charge under Article 338 of the Indonesian Criminal Code (KUHP) carries a sentence of 15 years, while the second charge under Article 170 KUHP carries a sentence of 12 years. Human rights observers criticised that the defendants had neither been detained during the investigation nor during the trial process.

“The Panel of Judges believed that Eden Bebari and Ronny Wandik were affiliated with an armed separatist group and that there was a shooting at the time of the incident. This view affected the decision of the Military Court III-14 Denpasar” said Paham Papua Director, Mr Gustaf Kawer. Paham Papua has been monitoring the trial and provides legal counsel to the victims’ relatives