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Healthcare workers in Papua must be respected, protected

Healthcare workers in Papua must be respected, protected

Indonesian soldiers evacuate healthcare workers who become victims of terror attacks in Kiwirok, to Jayapura, Papua Province, on Sept 17, 2021/ (ANTARA FOTO/Indrayadi TH)

Two years after the death of Dr. Soeko Marsetiyo in a deadly riot that broke out in Wamena during a rally by native Papuan students on September 23, 2019, tragedy has visited paramedics in Papua again.


In the riot that occurred in the capital of Jayawijaya district two years ago, the 53-year-old doctor had fallen victim to the brutality of rioters along with at least 29 other innocent civilians.


The riot had also left at least 77 other civilians injured and forced several thousand residents, mostly non-native Papuans, to take refuge elsewhere.


At the time, Indonesia's National Police had accused members of the West Papua National Committee (KNPB) of masterminding the Wamena violence.


Two years after the deadly riot claimed Marsetiyo's life, a female healthcare worker, Gabriela Meilan, has fallen victim to the brutality of Papuan separatist terrorists.


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On Monday morning (September 13, 2021), several members of the Lamek Tablo-led separatist terrorist group reportedly torched several public facilities, including a public health center, and homes in Kiwirok.


The Papuan terrorists assaulted and tortured several health workers from the Kiwirok Public Health Center in Pegunungan Bintang district, about 230 kilometers away from Jayapura, the capital of Papua province.


Meilan died after being tortured by the terrorists, said officials.

Related news: Soldier injured in gun battle with Papuan terrorists


The separatist terrorists also got into a gunfight with Indonesian security personnel during which one army personnel sustained minor injuries on his right arm after a bullet ricocheted and struck him.


The wounded army personnel has been identified as 1st Private Ansar from the 403/WP Infantry Battalion.


On Thursday, activists from the Indonesian Medical Association (IDI)-Papua Chapter and around 250 paramedics staged a peaceful rally in Oksibil, the capital of Pegunungan Bintang district to pay their last respects to the fallen health worker.

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They also organized a candlelight vigil by lighting one thousand candles along the town's main road.


On Friday, 1st Private Ansar and nine healthcare workers who survived the terrorists' brutality were evacuated from Kiwirok sub-district in Pegunungan Bintang district to Jayapura city.


The health workers have been identified as Lukas Luji, Marthinus Deni Setya, Siti Khotijah, Dr.Restu Pamanggi, Marselinus Ola Atanila, Patra, Emanuel Abi, Katrianti Tandila, and Kristina Sampe Tonapa.


The evacuees were transported on a Caracal transport military helicopter to the capital of Papua province to receive medical treatment at Marthen Indey Hospital.


Condemning the attack on healthcare workers in Kiwirok, the IDI-Papua Chapter appealed to the Papua administration and the Indonesian Military (TNI) and National Police (Polri) to guarantee the security and safety of all healthcare workers across the province.


The guarantee is a must to ensure the sustainability of medical and healthcare services for Papuan communities all over the province, IDI-Papua Chapter chairperson Donald Aronggear said.

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The organization further urged the Papua administration to coordinate with regional governments as well as religious, customary, and community leaders to secure the safety of all health workers in Papua.


According to Aronggear, amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Papuan communities need medical and healthcare services, but acts of violence against paramedics could affect these services.


Aronggear had also sought protection for all paramedics working in Papua after Marsetiyo's death in the Wamena riot two years ago.


At the time, he had appealed to security agencies and other related stakeholders, as well as community members, to guarantee the healthcare workers' safety and security.


Their safety and security is of utmost importance to enable all paramedics, including doctors, to work optimally, he said.

Related news: Search on for two missing healthcare workers in Papua: army


If those involved in armed conflicts do understand the importance of the paramedics' position, they will not harm them, he added.


The international humanitarian law (IHL) and international human rights law (IHRL) state that medical personnel must be respected and protected, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).


According to an ICRC document accessed by ANTARA (, "personnel engaging in medical tasks must always be respected and protected".

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They could lose their rights to this protection in times of armed conflicts if "they commit, outside of their humanitarian function, acts that are harmful to the enemy", ICRC's fact sheet on IHL and IHRL stated.


In addition to the protection of healthcare workers, IHL and IHRL's rules also regulate the protection of hospitals and other medical units, including public health centers, from attacks by warring camps.


"Medical units, such as hospitals and other facilities that have been set up for medical purposes, must be respected and protected in all circumstances," according to the ICRC factsheet.

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Therefore, attacks on hospitals, public health centers, and other medical facilities set up to serve those in need of medical services are prohibited, and access to them cannot be restricted.


In this light, the attack carried out by Papuan separatist terrorists on paramedics working at the Kiwirok Public Health Center can be considered a crime against humanity.

Related news: Health workers, teachers should be evacuated from Kiwirok: govt

Related news: Papua: IDI condemns terror attack on health workers