Wed, 25 Sep 2002

Rights body urged to probe Theys' death

Agencies, Jakarta

Chairman of the Papua provincial legislature John Ibo urged the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) on Tuesday to set up an independent team to investigate last year's murder of independence leader Theys Hiyo Eluay.

The establishment of an independent team from Komnas HAM would demonstrate Jakarta's intention to uphold justice, John Ibo said.

"I think the establishment of an independent team comes as the first choice in unraveling Theys' murder and other human rights violations in Papua," John Ibo was quoted by Antara as saying on Tuesday.

He admitted that the military police were still questioning a number of Kopassus members as suspects in Theys' death but insisted that the Papuan people wanted Komnas HAM to form an independent investigation team as they considered the murder to be a gross violation of human rights.

Instead of forming a team from the human rights commission, Jakarta established the National Investigation Commission (NIC), to which Ibo was appointed a member.

Eluay was found dead in his car on Nov. 11 last year. He had been abducted by armed men the previous evening while driving home from a ceremony at the headquarters of the Tribuana military taskforce, which consists largely of Kopassus special force members in Jayapura, the capital of Papua.

In May, Ibo and another NIC member, Karel Phil Erari, said three Kopassus members were aided by a number of lower-ranking soldiers, paid by their superiors, to execute Theys.

National military police chief Major General A.B. Sulaiman said last week that seven Kopassus soldiers would soon face a court-martial for their alleged involvement in Theys' death.

Sulaiman had previously been quoted in June as saying that nine soldiers would stand trial in July.

One of the officers questioned in the military police investigation said that Eluay died suddenly, possibly from shock, while being questioned by soldiers.

But an earlier autopsy determined that Eluay, who headed the peaceful proindependence Papua Presidium Council, had died of suffocation. His body was found in his crashed car with the face darkened and tongue protruding.

The military said some members of the Army's elite Kopassus force serving in the Tribuana command might have been involved in the murder.

A low-level armed struggle for independence began after the Dutch ceded control of the resource-rich territory to Indonesia in 1963.

The province, formerly known as Irian Jaya, was renamed Papua this year under an autonomy law that promised a much greater share of revenue from natural resources and respect for local culture.