A sad Papuan human rights tale – the torture and death of Mispo Gwijangge

The cremation of Mispo Gwijangge
Cremation at the funeral of Papuan teenager Mispo Gwijangge ... he was wrongly accused, jailed and then set free to his death from torture. Image: Tabloid Jubi

Asia Pacific Report newsdesk

West Papuans are facing the start of 2021 with sorrowful news about the death of Mispo Gwijangge, a victim of accusations and torture over alleged crimes he did not commit.

Some human rights advocates and lawyers, including Amnesty International Indonesia, have expressed their condolences for his death in Wamena on January 6, reports Tabloid Jubi.

Amnesty International Indonesia says Gwijangge was charged over the killing of 17 PT Istaka Karya workers in Nduga at the end of 2018.

The Papua Advocacy Team found a number of irregularities in the case.

Gwijangge, who was not fluent in the Indonesian language, explained through the help of an interpreter that he did not commit the murders he was accused of.

He said he was in a refugee camp in Wamena when the murder of PT Istaka Karya took place on December 2, 2018. Gwijangge was sentenced to death, even though he was still under age, who should not have been given a death sentence, say advocates.

Michel Himan, one of Gwijangge’s defence lawyers who handled the case, while expressing his deep condolences, said that Gwijangge had been arrested on 12 May 2018. He was only 14 years old when he was detained at the Jayawijaya police headquarters.

In prison cell for 333 days
For 333 days, he remained in a prison cell and was often tortured.

Himan said that without the knowledge of his family Gwijangge had been transferred to Jakarta for “security reasons”, while the trial of another case at the same time went smoothly.

Gwijangge was forced to accept this unjust legal process. He had never committed the murder, say advocates.

Himan, who is known as a prominent young lawyer from Papua in the Indonesian capital, recalls his conversation with Gwijangge at Salemba prison in Jakarta.

“Mispo said, ‘I never went to school. I can’t read and write and have never been out of town, always live in the village, I’ve never been involved as alleged, I don’t know anything.’

“’I just wanted to go home because no one takes care of my mum. My mum is alone in the jungle [temporary refugee camp], Mispo told Himan while staring at the clouds.

“My head is dizzy, and I am worried about my mother, I just wanted to get back to Papua as soon as possilble,” Himan recalls about what Gwijangge told him.

Pneumonia, back pain
Gwijangge was badly sick with pneumonia and back pain as a result of the torture he had received.

“We were all worried about his situation at that time. We have done our best to help him for the sake of healing,” said Himan.

Tabloid Jubi reports that according to Mispo’s older sister with initials DG, Gwijangge had still been traumatised after being arrested in the middle of last year. He was accused of being involved in the murder of dozens of Trans Papuan Highway workers in Nduga regency in early December 2018.

“He didn’t want to take medication. He was worried that someone would try to find fault with him, and then he would be arrested again,” said DG.

Gwijangge’s family decided to take care of him from home.

Nduga refugees volunteer Raga Kogeya said it was natural that Mispo Gwijangge had still been traumatised. The youth had been arrested and accused of crimes he did not commit.

At that time, the threat was the maximum of a death penalty.

Luckily, the panel of judges at the Central Jakarta District Court, who tried the Gwijangge case, rejected all of the charges against him by the public prosecutor.

The judges were willing to consider various irregularities presented by Gwijangge’s legal team. Finally, they decided to drop the prosecution and to free him from detention.

This report has been compiled by a special Pacific Media Watch correspondent. Tabloid Jubi articles are republished with permission.

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  1. What can we do about this here in australia?
    As a png born woman half cast who has grown up most of my life in Australia since my parents moved here after independence
    I’m sickened and ashamed for what is happening in PNG.
    Surely the Australian government can do something !!

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