Sat, 03 Apr 2004

Police hand over Manggarai report to Komnas HAM

Yemris Fointuna, The Jakarta Post, Kupang, West Nusa Tenggara

A team of detectives has completed its probe into the Manggarai shooting that killed six local residents and injured 26 others, a senior police officer said on Friday.

Brig. Gen. Edward Aritonang, the chief of the East Nusa Tenggara Provincial Police, said that the team, comprising nine officers from National Police Headquarters, had also handed over its report to the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) for further investigation.

Aritonang said that the report was handed over to the rights body because as following the enactment of the Human Rights Law in 2000, the police no longer had the power to prepare files with a view to prosecution in cases involving violations of human rights.

A senior police officer -- Adj. Sr. Comr. Bonifasius Tompoi, the chief of the Manggarai Police -- was identified as being responsible for the shooting incident, along with 15 civilians.

"The rights body may dig deeper into the case based on our report. If the body considers that the suspects have violated human rights after these investigations, the rights body will then prepare a file and hand it over to the Attorney General's Office (AGO) for further prosecution," he told reporters here in Kupang, the capital of East Nusa Tenggara province.

If the Attorney General's Office makes a finding regarding those whom it believes were responsible for the incident, it will produce a file for submission to the House of Representatives for scrutiny.

The House will observe the report and investigate the case, and make recommendations as to whether the case can be brought to the human rights tribunal. If the House finds that there are strong indications that police personnel or civilians have violated human rights, then it will recommend the a human rights tribunal be set up to prosecute the case.

The investigation and prosecution of human rights violations has become more complicated since the law on human rights was enacted in 2000 as part of an effort to promote and uphold human rights in the country.

The shooting incident in Manggarai regency occurred when some 400 coffee farmers stormed the Manggarai police station on March 11 to demand the release of seven local residents who had been detained by police for planting coffee in a protected forest.

The police opened fire, leaving six of the protesters dead and 26 others injured. Meanwhile, seven police personnel were injured, while all the windows on the front of Manggarai police headquarters were shattered.

The police claimed they had opened fire on the machete- wielding and stone-throwing farmers only after the farmers ignored warning shots to disperse.

Manggarai regency has banned agriculture in protected forests but locals have been ignoring the ban as they consider the land involved to be their ancestral land.

Despite protests from farmers, the local administration has destroyed about 15,000 hectares of illegally cultivated coffee since last year.