Threats to kill pilot Philip Mark Mehrtens worsen human rights situation in Papua: Komnas HAM

Philip Mark Mehrtens
Susi Air Pilot, Philip Mark Mehrtens (holding Morning Star flag) with TPNPB. Doc. TPNPB

Jayapura, Jubi – The West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB) recently released a video that threatened to kill the pilot they held hostage, Philip Mark Mehrtens. Chairperson of the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) Atnike Nova Sigiro said such threat would worsen the human rights situation in Papua and perpetuate the cycle of violence in the region.

On February 7, 2023, the TPNPB led by Egianus Kogeya set fire to a Susi Air plane after it landed and discharged passengers at Paro Airstrip in Nduga Regency. They also abducted the pilot, Philip Mark Mehrtens. Subsequently, the Indonesian Military (TNI) and Police launched a rescue operation that resulted in a firefight in Mugi District on April 15, 2023.

After three months of holding the pilot hostage, the TPNPB released a video conveying their demands and threats against Philip Mark Mehrtens. In the video, Mehrtens was seen holding a Morning Star flag while being held captive by the TPNPB. He said he would be killed if there were no discussions about the status of Papua within the next two months.

In a video received by Jubi on Saturday, May 27, 2023, Mehrtens said that other countries were given a two-month period to engage in discussions with Indonesia regarding an independent Papua. “If no discussions take place within that time frame, the TPNPB will proceed to shoot me,” Mehrtens said.

Sigiro, in response, said her party considered the threat made by TPNPB as a provocation that could trigger the government to use a security-based approach in Papua even more. The act of holding Mehrtens hostage, Sigiro said, was a criminal act that had aggravated the situation in Papua, resulting in casualties and public unrest.

“Komnas HAM once again urges Egianus Kogeya to immediately and unconditionally release Philip Mark Mehrtens,” Sigiro said.

According to Sigiro, the act of taking hostages and issuing death threats undermines public sympathy, including from the international community, towards human rights concerns in Papua. The violent actions carried out by TPNPB, which include threatening to kill hostages, go against the principles of promoting dialogue. Taking Philip Mark Mehrtens hostage and endangering his life is not a suitable approach for initiating a dialogue.

She emphasized that dialogue can only be achieved by demonstrating goodwill and fostering trust among all parties involved.

Sigiro emphasized that the Komnas HAM consistently urged the government, including the TNI and Police to adopt a measured security approach when it came to the rescue of Philip Mark Mehrtens and addressing the situation in Papua.

Komnas HAM also calls upon all stakeholders in Papua, including civil society groups, churches, traditional customs, and local governments, to collectively engage in persuasive efforts towards Egianus Kogeya and his followers, urging them to cease violent methods immediately.

Furthermore, Komnas HAM requests the government to promptly initiate genuine peace initiatives, which can be initiated at the local level through collaboration with community groups in Papua. (*)

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