Image: Protester
Slamet Riyadi  /  AP
A Papuan protester wearing a headband  with the banned separatist "Morning Star" flag raises his fist during a pro-independence demonstration in Yogyakarta on Wednesday. 
updated 7/5/2007 12:48:02 AM ET 2007-07-05T04:48:02

Indonesian security forces killed and beat unarmed civilians and on two occasions raped women during recent operations against separatists in Papua province, Human Rights Watch alleged in a report released Thursday.

The national police chief denied any abuses occur in the isolated region, where mistrust between indigenous people and government forces is high after years of bloody military crackdowns.

“The police have undertaken many reforms. The human rights situation in Papua is getting better,” said Gen. Sutanto, who like many people in this Southeast Asian country goes by a single name.

The allegations of abuse are based on interviews with alleged victims and witnesses, all of whom spoke anonymously due to fears of reprisal, New York-based Human Rights Watch said.

The group’s 96-page report detailed eight alleged killings by police and military officers in the province’s central highlands since 2005 and several vicious beatings.

“I was beaten with the end of a gun on my back, and with fists to my face. My mouth and eyes were smashed and bleeding,” said one alleged victim.

Human Rights Watch also recorded two cases of rape — one of a 16-year-old girl by a soldier and another of a married woman by police who accused her of supplying food for the rebels.

The group said only one low-ranking soldier, who received an 8-month prison term for killing a 16-year-old boy, faced prosecution in any of the abuses.

Covering the western half of Papua New Guinea island, Papua was incorporated into Indonesia in 1969 after a U.N.-sponsored ballot of tribal leaders, which has since been dismissed as a sham.

A small separatist insurgency has raged ever since in the province, which is a mostly Christian region in a nation with a Muslim majority. Tens of thousands have died from Indonesian military offensives, rights groups say.

The International Crisis Group think tank in Brussels, Belgium, said last year that official respect for human rights had improved in Papua since the province was granted more autonomy, but it said serious violations still occurred.

Since 2002, foreign journalists, diplomats and human rights workers have required permission — which is often denied — to visit Papua. Once there, strict limits are imposed on movement and association.

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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