Press Release: TAPOL
TAPOL, a UK group campaigning to improve human rights in Indonesia, today received a statement from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office defending UK arms sales to Indonesia as “promoting security and stability.” TAPOL also today received reports of military attacks in Wamena, Papua, with a number of civilians suffering gunshot and stab wounds.
According to local activists and church leaders from Wamena town in the central highlands of Papua, the incident was sparked when two members of the Indonesian military travelling on a motorbike hit and killed a three-year-old child, causing a confrontation with the community which left one soldier dead and the other critically injured. Enraged members of the feared Battalion Yonif 756 reportedly ran amok through the town, shooting civilians, burning houses and causing displacement as civilians fled town for the forest.
While the Indonesian government’s de-facto ban on foreign journalists and international human rights NGOs in Papua makes independent confirmation difficult, TAPOL has received disturbing photographs and videos showing wounded people in civilian dress and burning buildings.
Despite evidence that Indonesia has repeatedly used weapons purchased from the UK and other countries for internal repression, in April this year Prime Minister David Cameron personally lead a mission to boost arms sales in Indonesia, among other Asian countries.
Lord Avebury, vice-chair of the all-party parliamentary human rights group, called on the UK government to condemn the violence and impose an immediate ban on UK arms sales to Indonesia.
“Yet again, Indonesia’s military is using its weapons to brutalise and kill civilians. Weapons cannot be sold to countries which may use them for internal repression, regardless of the state of the British economy,” he said.
Carmel Budiardjo, senior campaigner for TAPOL, said “While the British government claims that it ‘takes seriously’ reports of human rights violations in Indonesia, it is only too eager to push sales of military hardware to the country. Given the latest attacks on civilians in Papua by vengeful Indonesian security forces, continuing to sell such equipment is to knowingly turn a blind eye to the capacity of the Indonesian security forces to use their power and weaponry for internal repression.”
Battalion Yonif 756 (Yonif Batalion 756) are non-organic troops, whose stated role in Indonesia is to address foreign or separatist threats. The Battalion’s name is ‘Wim Ane Sili,’ which means ‘House of the Sound of War’ in one of the local Baliem valley languages, Dani. The presence of non-organic troops in Papua is highly contentious, and civil society groups frequently call for their removal. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono himself reportedly promised the withdrawal of non-organic troops in December 2011, but failed to set any deadline.