Impunity: Military trial on the killing of two civilians in Mimika Regency planned to start – Relatives demand trial takes place in Timika

Almost two years have passed since military personnel shot dead Mr Eden Armando Bebari (19) and Mr Ronny Wandik (21) in the Mimika Regency on 13 April 2020. The military personnel reportedly mistook the two Papuans for members of the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB). In late March 2022, the victims’ relatives received information that the trial against the suspects Lieutenant Gabriel Bowie Wijaya, Staff Sergeant Vicente de Oliviera Santos, Private Bahari Muhrim, and Private Sugi Harnoto will not take place in Timika but in Makassar, South Sulawesi Province.

Human rights observers and relatives understand the change of location as an attempt to impede relatives and witnesses from attending the trial. They called upon the National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM) to urge the military prosecutor that the trial shall be held in Timika, where the shooting occurred. The relatives demand harsh penalties for the perpetrators and their immediate dismissal from the military.

None of the suspects has been detained since the investigation into the case began. The Papuan lawyer and human rights defender, Mr Gustaf Kawer, declared in an interview with media outlet Jubi  “We found out through Komnas HAM, the suspects were not arrested […] Under the rule of law, all suspects must be detained to anticipate the possibility that they could commit the same crime or make important evidence disappear.”

The relatives also expressed disappointment over the law enforcement process in the case. The investigation lacked transparency even though Komnas HAM was partly involved. However, the victim’s families had been waiting for two years without receiving updated information on the stage of the investigation and accountability process.

Background

The internal disciplinary proceedings within the military lack transparency and commonly fail in adequately punishing the perpetrators or restoring justice for victims. Cases of extra-judicial killings throughout the past years illustrate that internal military investigations often take a long time, while important evidence and witness testimonies are not considered.

The cases also reveal a new pattern of structural violation against the right to a fair trial. There have been previous reports that military trials were held in different regencies and provinces than those where the alleged crime was committed. This prevents witnesses from attending the trials and testifying against the perpetrators since most families do not have the financial means to travel far.

Indonesian human rights non-governmental organisation KontraS reported that the trial against three military members who killed Isak Dewakyekua on 19 November 2017 was held at the Military Court III-19 in Jayapura, despite that the incident occurred in Kimam District of Merauke Regency. Important witnesses to the killing could not testify before the court because they had no means to travel.