The people of West Papua have been calling for self-determination for half a century – a struggle for liberation from an Indonesian military occupation that has seen as many as 500,000 Papuans killed. A recent development in this long campaign is the suspicious death of a commander of the rebel Free Papua Movement (OPM), Danny Kogoya, on December 15. The cause of death, as described in the medical report, was liver failure, bought on by the presence of “unusual chemicals in his body,” raising concern that he was poisoned.
At the time of his death, Kogoya was at Vanimo hospital, in Papua New Guinea (PNG), receiving treatment for his leg. His leg was amputated in 2012 – without his consent – at a police hospital in Jayapura, West Papua, after Indonesian security forces shot him during an arrest. According to the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), a doctor at Vanimo hospital alleged that the chemicals were administered while Kogoya was at the police hospital in Jayapura and that he had been slowly poisoned to death by the Indonesian state authorities.
When Kogoya’s family submitted a request, with the medical report attached, to Vanimo Court House, asking for his body to be buried in West Papua, the Court decided to treat the death as a murder and called for an autopsy. AHRC reports that when the autopsy was scheduled, four individuals – two of them identified as Indonesian consulate staff – met with hospital management and prevented the autopsy from taking place.
A series of subsequent negotiations between family members, Indonesian consulate officials and PNG local authorities resulted in the autopsy being agreed to. But latest reports indicate the autopsy is yet to happen.
Whether foul play is proven in the death of Kogoya or not, the incident is another in a long line in the liberation movement in West Papua, which has seen civilians with suspected links to separatists tortured, political activists murdered and perpetrators act with impunity.