Allegations of fatal military violence in Boven Digoel Regency

The Justice and Peace Department (SKP KAME) of the Archdiocese Merauke has received credible information regarding the alleged torture of sixteen-year-old Oktovianus Warip Betere in the Asiki District of Boven Digoel Regency, Papua Province. According to the head of the SKP KAME, Anselmus Amo, members of the 561 Caraka Yudha Kodam Brawijaya border control unit arrested Oktavianus Betere and subsequently tortured him inside a military post. The military members admitted him shortly after to a local community health centre (Puskesmas). A post-mortem examination at a local clinic confirmed that the victim’s body was bruised and wounded.

According to information received, the incident took place on 25 July 2020 in the early afternoon. Military members arrested Oktavianus Betere  after he was accused of stealing. He was later admitted to the health centre. SKP KAME claims that Oktavianus Betere was already dead at the time of admission. The chief of 174/ATW infantry unit, Major Suko Raharjo, denied that Mr Betere was dead at the time of admission. He stated in a public interview with the local media outlet Jubi that Oktaviuanus Warip Betere was not tortured and died later at the clinic due to unknown reasons.

According to the commander of 174/Anim Ti Waninggap military command, General Bangun Nawoko, a military task force had been seconded to Asiki to conduct an internal investigation into the allegations of torture.

Past cases have shown that internal investigations by the police and military lack transparency, independence and do not result in the prosecution of perpetrators. Impunity among perpetrators who belong to the police and military forces continues to be among the critical human rights issues because internal investigative bodies tend to protect police and military members instead of pursuing justice and accountability.