Central Sulawesi police and the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) have formed a team to investigate the deaths of three civilians who were allegedly shot by Indonesian government forces during a counter-terrorist manhunt, the provincial police chief said Thursday.
The three young people were shot and killed in two separate incidents in April and June in Poso regency, allegedly by police and military personnel taking part in Operation Tinombala, a joint task force established in 2016 to hunt down, capture or kill members of the Eastern Indonesia Mujahidin (MIT), a pro-Islamic State militant group.
The Central Sulawesi police will lead the investigation team, provincial Chief Syafril Nursal said.
“Investigators have gone to Poso and we are waiting for the results of their investigation,” he said.
Qidam Alfariski Mofance, 20, was killed after allegedly being tortured by Tinombala task force members after meeting with his relatives in Poso on April 9, according to officials.
Later, Firman, 17, and Syarifudding, 25, who both went by one name, were killed while farming on June 2. Tinombala members, joined by Central Sulawesi and Poso police, were patrolling a local forest when the shootings occurred, according to officers.
Officials said 41 Tinombala members had been questioned about the shootings. Provincial police spokesman Didik Supranoto said there were no suspects, but 29 had been questioned regarding Qidam’s death while the others had been questioned in the cases of Firman and Syarifudding.
“At the moment they are being questioned and their status is still as witnesses,” Didik told reporters.
Dedi Azkari, the chairman of Komnas HAM in Central Sulawesi, said his organization was collecting evidence from the victims’ families.
“Based on the reports we have, these three cases involve gross human rights violations,” he said, adding that those responsible must face justice because their carelessness led to the deaths of innocent civilians.
“These three victims were not dangerous. If they were suspected of being followers of MIT, you have to arrest them first, not kill them. Obviously this is a gross human rights violation,” he said.
‘Investigation must be conducted openly’
Central Sulawesi lawmaker Wiwik Jumatul Rofiah, meanwhile, called for a transparent investigation.
“We don’t want to have the impression that you tried to protect the perpetrators even though the culprits could be authorities. The investigation must be conducted openly,” she told reporters in Palu on Thursday.
She also urged the government to terminate Operation Tinombala.
“It is strange that it takes years and hundreds of personnel just to catch the Eastern Indonesia Mujahidin, which has fewer than 20 members,” she said.
In April, the government announced that Rajif Gandi Sabban (alias Rajes), a senior MIT member, was killed in a shootout with security forces in a Poso jungle. At the time, Didik said MIT only had 13 members.