Gustaf Rudolf Kawer, Chairman, Papuan Human Rights Lawyers’ Association: Jokowi’s Approach to Papua Not Humanistic
The shooting of Pastor Yeremia Zanambani in Kampung Hitadipa in Intan Jaya Regency, Papua, on September 19 conjured up memories of similar incidents in Gustaf Rudolf Kawer’s mind.
HE was still a primary student in 1984 when the death of Papuan anthropologist and artist Arnold Clemens Ap rocked his homeland. Arnold was shot to death by Sandi Yudha Command Forces—now Special Elite Forces (Kopassus)—and his body thrown to the sea.
Seventeen years later on November 10, 2011, Dortheys ‘Theys’ Hiyo Eluay, Papuan customary leader, was also shot dead by Kopassus members. “I thought to myself, these incidents don’t seem to stop,” said Gustaf, 44, from Jayapura during a special interview via video with Tempo last Wednesday, November 4.
The human rights lawyer said the probes into alleged violence by the security forces against the Papuan people went nowhere in spite of clear indications of human rights violations in many cases. The cases were seldom solved or only solved in the court-martial, let alone reached human rights courts. Citing Elsam Papua’s report, Gustaf said the number of human rights violations in Papua since its annexation by Indonesia amounted to 749 cases. However, only the Abepura incident that broke out on December 7, 2000, reached the human rights court. “That’s just one case and the perpetrators were acquitted by the cassation court in the end,” said Gustaf, the chairman of Papuan Human Rights Lawyers’ Association.
Gustaf added that the only time the Papuan people enjoyed space to express their opinions was during the era of President Abdurrahman Wahid or Gus Dur. Things went downhill again afterwards including during President Joko Widodo’s rule. Looking from the fact that President Jokowi has set up the Intan Jaya Joint Fact-Finding Team to resolve the shooting of Pastor Yeremia Zanambani via a political channel, Gustaf feels Jokowi is not serious enough about resolving issues in Papua albeit his record as the president who has made the most visits to Papua. The fact-finding team formed to investigate the case was deemed intended to solve it politically.
To Tempo’s journalists Sapto Yunus, Mahardika Satria Hadi, and Abdul Manan, Gustaf recounted his experiences of handling alleged human rights violations in his homeland. The recipient of the 2019 Pro Bono Champions award pointed out that the exploitation of natural resources had forced the Papuans out of their homes and to become victims of abuse by the security forces. He believes that the government’s lack of seriousness has worsened the situation.
Why do you feel that the joint fact-finding team (TGPF) is not determined to unravel the shooting of Pastor Yeremia Zanambani?
All the shootings in Papua including the one involving Pastor Zanambani are repeat incidents since Papua’s integration to Indonesia. In 2011, the same fate befell Theys Eluay. The military at first denied their wrongdoings but the results of the investigation by our NGO (non-governmental organization) friends pointed to their direction. But they still denied it. Then a more thorough investigation showed Kapassus’ involvement. But the result said it did not find human rights violations so the case was only tried by a military tribunal in Surabaya (East Java). Now it’s the same story with Pastor Zanambani’s killing.
What hasn’t been revealed by the Intan Jaya TGPF’s investigation?
The investigation by our friends at the church found indications of the Indonesian Military’s (TNI) involvement. Then, the result of an independent investigation by Papuan Human Rights Coalition also pointed to the TNI. And they kept on denying after the TGPF ambiguously declared that the perpetrators were either TNI personnel or unknown armed assailants. At last, the National Human Rights Commission’s (Komnas HAM) probe confirmed TNI’s involvement and that the perpetrator was the deputy commander of the Hitadipa military subdistrict command (Danramil) based in Intan Jaya. I have to say this is sad because these incidents keep on happening and there is no comprehensive resolution for violence against Papuan people.
Violence against the Papuan people goes on. What are the root causes?
If the government wants to be honest, the crux of the matter is the natural resources. The exploitation of the natural resources is mostly carried out through a military approach which led to human rights violations. This has happened repeatedly since the 1969 integration until now. We know the government’s plan to exploit the natural resources especially gold in the Wabu Block. And then the government sought a military approach again, and again the civilians were the victims in the process.
(In a copy of the letter dated July 24, that Tempo received, Papua Governor Lukas Enembe, responding to the request sent by the CEO of Mining Industry Indonesia on February 20, issued a recommendation for a special mining permit to mine in the 40,000 hectare Wabu Block in Intan Jaya which previously was known as the Block B belonging to Freeport Indonesia.)
Was Pastor Zanambani one of those activists advocating about the exploitation of gold in Intan Jaya?
We heard that the Pastor often advocated for the victims of abuse including torture by the security forces. He stood up for the people. In a latest incident, the soldiers ordered the people to gather at the church and threatened them. Pastor Zanambani helped the residents and the TNI considered him as inconveniencing the state.
Was Pastor Zanambani deliberately targeted?
Yes, he was targeted for being vocal about the people’s rights. That’s what Papuan Human Rights Coalition’s investigation found. Komnas HAM’s findings also indicated a design by the army to eliminate people who they deem as nuisance.
Was the Pastor terrorized or intimidated before he was murdered?
According to the investigation, there was an incident prior to the murder where an unknown group stole (military) weapons. The soldiers accused the people around the area of being involved in the theft. Then the villagers were rounded up in the church yard and terrorized by the personnel including the deputy commander of the Hitadipa subdistrict command. He said they would kill anyone who got in the way including Pastor Zanambani. The victim’s family said they saw the deputy commander and several of his men head towards the pigsty where the pastor was killed. They said it was the deputy commander named Alpius who pulled the trigger.
Gustaf Rudolf Kawer at the press conference on the return of political prisoners from Balikpapan, East Kalimantan, to Jayapura, Papua, in August./PAHAM Papua doc.
How many perpetrators were identified?
The identified perpetrator clearly was only one but more were involved. There was a group of people who went to the pen, tortured and shot Pastor Zanambani to death. The pastor had slash wounds on his body.
Didn’t the Intan Jaya TGPF conclude that there was an indication of involvement by the security personnel or a third party in the shooting?
The TGPF did not firmly say that the perpetrators were members of the TNI. They said there was no strong evidence as there was no witness. They also said the perpetrators were possibly TPN-OPM (National Liberation Army-Free Papua Organization) as they often raised hell in Intan Jaya. To me, TGPF’s words are ambiguous.
The Intan Jaya TGPF has handed over their investigation report to the Political, Legal and Security Affairs Coordinating Minister (Menko Polhukam) Mahfud Md. Is it the right step?
In an investigation process, if there are elements of human rights violations, I believe the recommendations should not be made to Menko Polhukam or the president, but to the Komnas HAM. So, I see it as a political—not law enforcement—move. According to the Human Rights Law and Human Rights Court Law, it is the Komnas HAM which has the authority to investigate (human rights violations), not the president or Menko Polhukam.
Are there indications of human rights violations which have not been uncovered by the Intan Jaya TGPF?
Judging from the way the investigation went, I personally think the case will not go to the Human Rights Court. It will likely be about misconduct and be processed at the court-martial. It is designed to go that way.
Are there indications that Pastor Zanambani’s shooting is a human rights violation case?
Here’s the thing. TNI personnel were killed and the leader ordered a sweeping operation which claimed civilians’ lives. Then the locals had to flee Intan Jaya. It means there is a systematic, widespread (abuse) also involving the commander. That already constitutes a human rights violation. From the commander’ statement that the perpetrators were unscrupulous soldiers, we can see that the case is designed to go to the court-martial. This is the mistake repeatedly made by the Komnas HAM and investigation teams in Papua.
What should the Komnas HAM do?
If the Komnas HAM is really serious, it should first form KPP HAM (human rights violation investigation commission). That is the correct flow in line with the Human Rights Court Law. The KPP HAM should consist of independent professionals with human rights expertise and launch an official investigation. The findings from the investigation, if human rights violations are found, should be presented to the Attorney General’s Office (AGO), not the president. The case should go to the permanent—not ad hoc—Human Rights Court.
As regards the gold mine in Intan Jaya, since when the intimidation and threats against the locals began?
Since last year as far as I know. There has been violence by the security forces, displacement, and not only in Intan Jaya. If we look further back, we’ll see that it’s the same as what happened in Nduga. Civilian shootings and displacement. Likewise, in Timika. Thousands of people came down from Banti to flee to Timika because the situation was intentionally made unsafe. The same modus operandi every time. It’s all because of the natural resources.
What kinds of hurdle are causing the human rights cases in Papua to often stall?
The regulations are already there actually. Since the reformasi era, we’ve had the Human Rights Law and the Human Rights Court Law in place. In Papua, we have the paragraph 1 and 2 of Article 45 of the Special Autonomy Law to govern human rights issues. At the institution level, we have Komnas HAM, Human Rights Court, and in Papua we have the Komnas HAM’s representation. There are regulations, institutions but the laws are not enforced because the government is not serious. That’s why these incidents continue to recur. The personnel who perpetrated violence may think it’s normal to inflict violence. They are immune to the law.
Why do you think the government is not serious to handle human rights violations in Papua?
The government indeed doesn’t want to touch the human rights problems in Papua because the violators are its own people, its own institutions. Second, the government is not capable. This relates to the above-mentioned regulations, for example, the Human Rights Court Law. All the time, the mechanism still uses general courts in normal criminal trial setting although these are extraordinary crimes which should be processed through an extraordinary mechanism. But there hasn’t been changed since 2000 till now. So, the case was tried in Makassar (South Sulawesi), far from Papua, run by general court judges and prosecutors from the AGO. How do we talk about change?
What evidence is there to prove that the Jokowi administration is not serious about Papua’s problems?
Right after his re-election during the Christmas event in Papua, Jokowi promised he would take care of Papua’s problems. How will the Papuan people appreciate it if none of the problems has been resolved in Papua since then? If Jokowi is serious, please settle Wasior, Wamena, Paniai, and also Abepura cases. Add to this the shootings that continue everywhere and deployment of troops. This shows that Jokowi’s approach is not humanistic. It is a military approach just like when Papua was still the military operation area.
Which president gave concrete solutions to Papua’s problems?
Only Gus Dur who appeared more humanistic.
What distinguishes Gus Dur from other presidents?
His way of approaching the Papuan people, most obvious is using the name Papua and allowing the Morning Star flag to fly. Gus Dur understood that the wrong symbols and approaches could result in conflicts. His humanistic approach managed to defuse conflicts and allowed Papuan People’s Congress to speak freely. The Papuan people had room to express themselves that time. But after he left, repression returned to Papua.
President Jokowi wants to end the problems in Papua through the economic approach. Is it the right priority?
Jokowi is mistaken if he thinks the economic approach is the only way. It has to be a comprehensive (approach). I think if Jokowi thinks carefully, the recommendations by the Indonesian Institute of Sciences could become a reference in efforts to end Papua’s problems. They include the economic approach as well as ending discrimination and marginalization of the Papuan people, resolving human rights violations and rectifying the history as solutions. But the government seemed scared of embarking on the last two steps, that is, human rights issues and the history. That’s why it chose to prioritize the economy. Now let’s see the latest fact: the economic approach hasn’t touched the grassroots people. It only benefits the elites. It used to be Jakarta’s elites, now it’s Papua’s elites.
If you are given an opportunity to meet President Jokowi, what would you tell him?
There are two things that I’d like to tell Jokowi. First, please settle the human rights issues in Papua. Second, let the Papuan manage their natural resources. If he cannot do them, give room (to the Papuan people) for dialog and let them determine their own destiny. That’s the best solution.
What kind of consequences could occur if the government fails to settle the human rights cases?
I see that the Papuan people’s trust in the government has continued to wane. Elsam Papua’s data shows that there have been 749 human rights violation cases since the transition period of 1963-1969, following the Pepera (Act of Free Choice) until the end of reformasi era, and only the Abepura incident that occurred on December 7, 2000, reached court. The only case that was ever tried and ended with the acquittal of the perpetrators. Then the Wasior case in 2001 and the Wamena case in 2003 which only got as far as the prosecutor’s office. The dossiers were thrown back and forth to the Komnas HAM on all kinds of pretexts. The latest was the Paniai incident in 2014. The case only reached the prosecutor’s office before being returned to the Komnas HAM.
What will happen if the Papuan people are not satisfied with the slow handling of the human rights cases?
I’m one of those who believe that their demands are increasingly stronger. They want to separate from Indonesia. They feel their lives will be better compared to living with Indonesia and feeling that they are still colonized.
How far are you involved in handling the human rights cases in Papua?
In the Abepura case, I was involved in advocacy until it reached the Human Rights Court in Makassar. I was a litigation coordinator at the Papuan human rights coalition. We accompanied the victims from the advocacy stage until the Komnas Ham recommended that the case be tried for gross human rights violation in 2000. The trial only began in 2004 at the Makassar Human Rights Court. That was the most orderly human rights trial because we had strong witnesses. But in the end the court set the perpetrators free. So did the cassation court later on.
GUSTAF RUDOLF KAWER
Place and Date of Birth: Merauke, Papua, January 21, 1976 • Education: Bachelor of Law, Cenderawasih University, Jayapura (2000); Master in Peace and Conflict Resolution, Gadjah Mada University, Yogyakarta (2007) • Career: Activist, Indonesian Student Service Association (2000-2002), Staff member, Civil and Political Rights Division, Papua Legal Aid Foundation (2002-2007), Advocate (2007-now), Chairman, Special Education Division for Advocates and Appointment of Advocates, Indonesian Advocates’ Association (2018-2022), Chairman, Papua Human Rights Lawyers’ Association (2017-2021) • Organization: Litigation Coordinator, Ciliation of Civil Societies for Law Enforcement and Human Rights in Papua (2008-2019) • Awards: Lawyers for Lawyers Award (2013), Hukum Online Pro Bono Champions Award (2019)
What are the charges that time?
The Komnas HAM listed 25 offenders but at the prosecutor’s office it was reduced to two and they were also acquitted.
You also defended seven Papuan political detainees who were charged with treason in the wake of mass protests against racism towards Papuan students in Surabaya last year. What challenges did you face?
The police view that all civil movements which take place within the boundary of freedom of expression are separatist movements. That’s why they use the treason article. You can already smell criminalization from the beginning. The demonstrators were protesting racism. They said nothing at all about Papua’s independence but the authorities insisted that it was about Papua’s independence.
As a lawyer vocal of human rights issues in Papua, have you ever faced intimidation or threats?
I was reported to police three times. I also got death threats. Strangers—I suspect they are intelligence personnel—paid visits to my house. When I accompanied the seven political detainees at the Jayapura police mobile brigade command headquarters, the team leader of the Papua regional police said I should stop talking about Papua because I was a target.