Statement by the West Papua Project, Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies,
University of Sydney, 16th July, 2012

Questions are being asked about the role that the partly Australian funded
and trained elite Indonesian police squad, Densus (Detachment) 88, has
played during the recent violence in West Papua. Set up in the wake of the
Bali terrorist bombings, Densus 88’s mandate was to tackle the rise of
domestic terrorism in Indonesia. Australian support might have been
motivated by revenge as well: 88 Australians were killed in the Bali attack.
While acclaimed for capturing or killing known and suspected terrorists,
Densus 88 also gained a reputation for extreme violence: many suspects being
killed rather than arrested. Now reports are suggesting that Densus 88 is
operating in West Papua, possibly clandestinely, and has been responsible
for the assassination-like killing of Papuan political activist, Mako
Tabuni, on June 14.

While Indonesian National Police spokesman, Saud Usman Nasution, has denied
Densus 88 is operating in West Papua he has left the door open for their
involvement, saying in the Jakarta Globe on June 27, “Densus will be
deployed if terrorism occurred there.” However other reports, for instance
from Kontras Papua, a local human rights organization, state that Densus 88
is already operating in West Papua “carrying out undercover activities”
(Cenderwasih Pos, June 23). Kontras Papua believes that Densus 88 was
involved in the Tabuni killing – where the victim is reported to have been
standing in the street eating betel nut when three unmarked cars pulled up
nearby. With no provocation a person emerged from one car and shot the
victim dead.

Police report that the victim had tried to snatch a weapon from the
plainclothes police involved and was killed in the resulting fracas. Police
also claim that Mako Tabuni was wanted for a series of shootings that had
occurred in Jayapura over the previous few weeks: a claim that seems
unlikely given his role as Deputy Director of KNPB (the West Papua National
Committee), which is a non-violent political organization. Tabuni had also
been publicly calling for an independent investigation into the recent
shootings of which he was accused. Nonetheless, any charges should have been
heard in court and given due legal process, now impossible with Tabuni’s
death. Other reports of Densus 88 activities in West Papua have come from
respected Papuan leaders. Reliable sources observed Densus 88 police arrest
KNPB member, Zakeus Hupla, in the lobby of the Dhanny Hotel, Entrop,
Jayapura, on the morning of June 23. Other reports indicate further arrests
of KNPB members by Densus 88 and their subsequent torture. According to
family members, no arrest warrants were issued by Indonesian police for
these arrests, and the Jayapura police deny that the KNPB members are in
their custody. Indeed it is unclear if these men have been arrested,
abducted or ‘disappeared.’

These events are of genuine interest and concern to Australia because
Australian taxpayers’ money is spent training and maintaining Densus 88.
This organization has a legitimate role to play in countering the rise of
terrorism, but it should act strictly within its organisational mandate. If
Australian taxpayers are indeed partially funding a clandestine force
involved in killings, abduction and torture of Papuan activists an
unacceptable situation has developed. These events and allegations must be
comprehensively investigated and all funding for Densus 88 frozen until
either the allegations have been disproved or the individual police officers
guilty of crimes arrested and tried in an open court. We call on the
Australian government to immediately halt the funding of Densus 88, to
investigate the claims of its misconduct, and to apologise to the Papuan
people if they are proven to be true.

Dr. Jim Elmslie West Papua Project co-convener 0407 913 870
Dr. Peter King West Papua Project co-convener 0422 647 025
Dr. Cammi Webb-Gannon West Papua Project co-ordinator 0408 727 367
Joe Collins Australia West Papua Association (Sydney) 0407 785 797
Budi Hernawan OFM Australian National University 02 6125 7065
Eko Waluyo Indonesian Solidarity 0416 809 107
Jason Macleod University of Queensland 0402 746 002