Indigenous Papuan allegedly tortured during police custody in Merauke – Suspect dies in health centre

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Relatives demand justice for the death of Michael Ipnun (see intro image). Michael was involved in a traffic accident near the village of Sarmayam in the Tanah Miring District on 21 September 2020. According to information received, he was sitting on the back of a motorcycle as the crash occurred. Around 7.30 pm, police officers took Michael Ipnun into custody shortly after regaining consciousness after the crash. Subsequently, the officers detained him at the Sarmayam Police post and later brought him to the Tanah Miring Sub-district police station where Michael was interrogated.

The relatives stated that they found bruises all over his body which appeared not to be related to the traffic accident. Moreover, Michael Ipnun’s wrists, feet and neck showed marks indicating that Michael’s extremities had been tied up. According to the director of the Justice and Peace Department (JPIC) of the Arch-Diocese Merauke, Father Anselmus Amo, three villagers witnessed how Michael Ipnun’s arms, legs and neck were tied to a chair at the Sarmayam Police post.

Around 4.00 pm, Michael Ipnun felt nauseous, so police officers brought him to the local health centre in Tanah Miring, approximately 3 km away from the police station. The JPIC desk also revealed that four members of the civil defence (Linmas) tortured Michael Ipnun at the health centre while his hands were tied behind the back.

He died around 6.30 am at the health centre. According to the doctor, Michael Ipnun died as a result of a strong impact on the back of the head. The chief of the Merauke District Police, Agustinus Ary Purwanto, declared in an interview with the media outlet ‘Jubi’ that an internal investigation into the allegations of torture is currently conducted by the Division of Profession and Security (Propam).

The relatives are currently waiting for the result of the investigation and hope that the police internal investigation will reveal the truth and bring upon justice. They demanded the police to withdraw all police officers from the Sarmayam Police Post and asked the local police to cover the expenses for Michale Ipnun’s burial ceremony.