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JAYAPURA, Irian Jaya (August 27, 1999 - Jakarta Post/Kabar Irian)---Students rallied here on Thursday demanding the British and South African Parliaments take responsibility for the alleged involvement of their soldiers and mercenaries in a 1996 hostage-release operation.

Some 150 Irianese students demonstrated outside the Provincial Legislative Council against the reported involvement of soldiers from the British Special Army Service and mercenaries from Executive Outcomes, a company of mercenaries from South Africa, whose headquarters are in England, in the operation.

Separatist rebels of the Free Papua Movement were then holding 24 hostages, including four Britons, a German and a Dutchman, in Mapnduma district and surrounding villages. The hostages had been on the scientific Lorentz Expedition.

The students were received by Abraham Kuruwaib, Deputy Council Speaker, and a number of Irian Jaya, military and state officials.

Student leader Aplin Yarangga reported that locals in Keneyam and Nggeselema villages saw 16 foreign soldiers in the military operation, which succeeded in freeing the hostages but left at least 12 villagers dead.

According to rights and church activists, a crackdown followed the operation in which many Irianese were massacred, raped, tortured and dispossessed.

"The two countries should be held responsible for killing Indonesians in the operation," Yarangga said.

The students also demanded the International Court of Justice investigate the involvement of former President Suharto, former Indonesian Military Chief Feisal Tanjung and former Army's Special Force (Kopassus) Commander Prabowo Subianto.

The students also accused former commander of the Trikora Military Command Dunidja, former commander of Wamena Military District Ayub Sumerta and Brig. Gen. Hotman Siagian, who is currently the Irian Jaya Police Chief, of allowing foreign soldiers to enter Indonesia's territory and slaughter its citizens in Mapnduma.

The students also insisted that the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) immediately send a special team to investigate the alleged involvement of an ICRC staff member and misuse of its logo and flag in the operation.

The ICRC has denied the allegation.

Yarangga also reported that during the hostage-taking situation, troops raped and tortured locals. Quoting reports from a three-year investigation conducted by rights and church activists, the students revealed that at least seven women were sexually harassed. Two of the victims were 11 years old, and another one was a toddler of three years old.

Yarangga also said a number of people were killed and tortured.

The students demanded that the Indonesian Military Chief take responsibility for human rights abuses in Irian Jaya.

"An independent team should be formed to investigate those involved in human rights violations and to drag them to the court of justice," stated Yarangga.

"The Indonesian Military chief has to guarantee the safety of the victims, witnesses and all people of Irian Jaya from intimidation and threats during the proposed investigation," the students demanded.

KABAR IRIAN ("Irian News")


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