Ronaldo Yawan dies during detention at police station in Biak – relatives raise allegations of torture

The Papuan victim solidarity group ‘Bersatu untuk Kebenaran’ (BUK) has expressed concerns over allegations of torture during the detention of a suspect at the district police station in Biak, Papua Province. Police officers arrested Ronaldo Yawan on 13 June 2019 after a resident had filed a complaint against him for stealing a pig. Relatives claim that they had already settled the issue outside of law. Witnesses saw police officers beating Ronaldo at the harbour, shortly after he was arrested on a ship leaving from Biak to Manokwari. Two days later, on 15 June 2019 around 5.00 pm, Ronaldo Yawan was found dead in his detention cell. Police officers claim that Ronaldo Yawan hung himself using his belt.

Ronaldo Yawan’s body has undergone an autopsy. According to the police, the autopsy report indicates that the cause of death was strangulation. Ronaldo’s relatives suspect that he died as a result of torture during arrest and detention. According to the relatives, Ronaldo did not use a belt as police officers arrested him. The head of the customary council in Biak, Apolos Sroyer, stated in an interview that he had received a similar complaint two months ago when a member of the indigenous Wakum clan died under mysterious circumstances during detention at the Biak police station. The local police chief stated during a press conference that 17 police officers were under investigation due to negligence allegations.