The Indonesian military says a tribunal has sentenced an army major to life in prison for his involvement in the brutal murder of four Papuan civilians in the Mimika district.
Their mutilated bodies were found in August 2022.
Benar News reports that human rights activists and victims’ relatives welcomed the conviction of Major Helmanto Fransiskus Dakhi as progress in holding members of security forces accountable for abuses in West Papua.
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“The defendant … was found guilty of premeditated murder,” Herman Taryaman, a spokesman for the Indonesian military command in Papua, told journalists.
The tribunal also dismissed Dakhi from the military.
Taryaman said four other soldiers charged in connection with the killings were being tried by a tribunal in the provincial capital of Jayapura.
A sixth military suspect died in December after falling ill, while police say four civilians were also facing trial in a civilian court.
Asia Pacific Report reported on 31 August 2021 that residents of Iwaka village in Mimika district had been shocked by the discovery of four sacks, each containing a headless and legless torso, in the village river.
Two other sacks were found separately, one containing four heads and the other eight legs. The sacks were weighted with stones.
A spokesman for the victims’ families, Aptoro Lokbere, said he was “satisfied” with the conviction and sentence.
Gustaf Kawer, an attorney for the victims’ families, said the life sentence for the major was a “brave” decision that should be emulated by military and civilian courts in similar cases.
Activists had said the violence degraded the dignity of indigenous Papuans amid allegations of ongoing rights abuses by government security forces in West Papua.
Dakhi is the third Indonesian Armed Forces member to be sentenced to life by a military court in a murder case since June.
Anger as MSG recruits Indonesians
Meanwhile, the Melanesian Spearhead Group’s secretariat in Vanuatu has confirmed it has recruited two Indonesians.
The statement from the group came during a protest against the move in front of the secretariat by the Vanuatu Free West Papua Association.
The group’s director-general, Leonard Louma, said the agency was aiming to strengthen its capacity and this would include the recruitment of two Indonesian nationals, filling the roles of the private sector development officer and the manager of arts, culture and youth programme.
Louma said the secretariat had been directed to “re-prioritise” its activities and was now positioning itself to meet the demands and expectations of the leaders.
The Free West Papua Association said hiring the Indonesians made a mockery of the support Vanuatu had given West Papua for many years.
This content originally appeared on Asia Pacific Report and was authored by APR editor.