Activists Slam Indonesia Military for ‘Sidelining’ Papua Torture

Activists Slam Indonesia Military for ‘Sidelining’ Papua Torture
, 22 November 2010


By: Markus Junianto Sihaloho & Nivell Rayda


Human Rights Watch on Monday lambasted the government for failing to prosecute five soldiers allegedly caught on tape torturing two Papuan civilians, even after one of the victims came forward to recount his ordeal.

A 10-minute video of the torture in May was recorded using a cellphone camera and was later posted to the Internet, causing an international uproar.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono later instructed the newly appointed chief of the Armed Forces, Adm. Agus Suhartono, to investigate, and a court-martial was promised.

However, the military went on to try four other soldiers in an unrelated and less serious case of abuse in March, also in Papua.

“Once again, the authorities are sitting on their hands rather than fulfilling their obligations and proactively identifying and prosecuting the soldiers responsible,” said Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia division.

“Kiwo has shown tremendous bravery in coming forward — he deserves justice and protection from retaliation, not another half-hearted Army investigation and cover-up,” he said, referring to Tunaliwor Kiwo, believed to be one of the two Papuan victims.

HRW’s statement comes after the release of a 30-minute video interview with Kiwo, which details his alleged torture at the hands of soldiers from the time he was detained on May 30 until his escape on June 2.

Activists from the Papuan Customary Council (DAP) met with Kiwo on Oct. 30 at his hiding place in Tingginambut subdistrict in Puncak Jaya, Papua.

They recorded his testimony on video and submitted it to the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM).

Kiwo said he had been tortured for over 48 hours, a routine that included repeated beatings, suffocation and being burned with cigarettes and red-hot pokers.

The interrogators also burned his genitals with a smoldering stick, crushed his toes with pliers and rubbed chili paste into his open wounds, he said. Kiwo also showed DAP activists where he was captured and detained.

On Nov. 9, however, the commission decided not to form a fact-finding team or launch a formal investigation.

Meanwhile, Army Spokesman Brig. Gen. Soewarno Widjonarko declined to comment on HRW’s statement.

He said that as far as the Army was concerned, the soldiers accused of violence against Papuans had been court-martialed and sentenced to detention.

“The most important things is that there has been punishment,” he said.

However, he declined to acknowledge that the tribunal in question was not centered on Kiwo’s case, but on an incident in which soldiers assaulted about 30 civilians during questioning.

Meanwhile, the military announced that Maj. Gen. Hotma Marbun, the regional commander in Papua, had been removed from his post as of Nov. 12.

It called the move a “routine transfer,” despite the fact that Marbun had only been in Papua since January.

“Changing military commanders will not root out impunity,” Robertson said.

“The victims deserve justice. The Indonesian military and police in Papua should fully cooperate with investigators from [Komnas HAM].”