US-backed elite Indonesian forces target church members and civilians

By agency reporter
December 6, 2010

A leading churchman in West Papua has called on President Obama to withdraw US cooperation with Indonesia’s elite ‘Kopassus’ forces, after finding himself on a military ‘enemies’ list. Kopassus soldiers murdered a previous ‘enemy’, Papuan leader Theys Eluay, in 2001.

The Rev Benny Giay, an outspoken defender of human rights in West Papua, has found himself on a list of ‘enemies’, which appears to have been leaked by Indonesia’s Kopassus forces. US assistance to Kopassus was renewed in July this year.

Kopassus is notorious for human rights violations in West Papua and East Timor. Giay told the indigenous rights NGO, Survival, that by renewing ties with Kopassus, "The US is supporting the policy to oppress the Papuans, to wipe us out."

The leaked documents show Indonesia’s special forces to be targeting church leaders and unarmed civilian activists in Papua, defining them as Kopassus’s main ‘enemy’. The Indonesian military has not denied the veracity of the documents.

A secret report from the task force says the civilians are "much more dangerous" than the armed opposition. For example, it states that the civilians persist in "propagating the issue of severe human rights violations in Papua" i.e. "murders and abductions that are done by the security forces."

Another Papuan churchman, the Rev Socratez Yoman, heads the list of Kopassus ‘enemies’. He told Survival, I speak up for justice, peace, human rights and dignity. I must speak up for my people."He shrugged off the death threats and intimidation that he and many others on the list suffer, by saying, "This is our daily life."

The revelations from Kopassus come only weeks after a shocking video was released of Indonesian soldiers torturing two tribal Papuan men.

Survival’s Director, Stephen Corry said, "It is shameful that the US has renewed its ties with Kopassus when they continue to target churchmen and civilians merely for speaking out about the suffering of their people."


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