November 19, 2011 / 1:01 PM / 8 years ago

Indonesian president defends military in Papua

JAKARTA, Nov 19 (Reuters) - Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono defended on Saturday the actions of its military in remote Papua province following accusations of human rights abuses and the recent killing of three people.

Three people were killed on Oct. 19 as police and military tried to disperse a political meeting in Abepura, a sub-district of Papua, a resource-rich yet underdeveloped province with a simmering separatist insurgency and heavy military presence.

The government’s national human rights commission found strong evidence of excessive acts that led to rights violations.

Human Rights Watch and other rights groups have called on U.S. President Barack Obama to address the issue when he met Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in Bali during an East Asia Summit.

But Yudhoyono said on Saturday there was accountability and military personnel who committed crimes would be investigated.

“The world must know that in Papua there are armed cells who are launching attacks at us, including at an area of a firm there,” he said, referring to a mine run by Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc where a worker was killed by gunmen on Thursday.

“When our soldiers are doing self-defense then it can’t be categorised as violating human rights.”

Yudhoyono said Papua was not specifically discussed during his meeting with Obama in Bali.

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