Chilis Rubbed Into Wounds, Papua Torture Victim Testifies

Chilis Rubbed Into Wounds, Papua Torture Victim Testifies
Jakarta Globe, 17 January 2011

By: Banjir Ambarita


Jayapura. One of the three soldiers facing a military tribunal over the torture of two Papuan men has been identified by his fellow defendants as the one caught on video egging the other soldiers on.

One of the victims, who is still in hiding, told the tribunal via recorded testimony on Monday that soldiers had beaten him for two days and then rubbed salt and chili paste into his open wounds.

Video footage of the torture prompted international furor when it was posted on YouTube in October last year.

The three soldiers now facing trial are Second Sgt. Irwan Rizkiyanto, First Pvt. Jackson Agu and First Pvt. Thamrin Mahamiri of the Army’s 753rd Infantry Battalion in Nabire, Papua.

The soldiers had been supervizing a military checkpoint near the village of Gurage in the mountainous region of Puncak Jaya when the torture occurred.

Military prosecutors have charged the men with insubordination, which carries a maximum penalty of 30 months in prison.

At the hearing presided over by Lt. Col. Adil Karo-Karo and panel members Lt. Col. Affandi and Maj. Herry, Jackson alleged that fellow defendant Irwan had ordered the two Papuan men to be tortured.

“Irwan was driven by emotion,” Jackson told Monday’s hearing.

“The thing is, one of our colleagues had been shot in the hip, by someone we suspected to be from the OPM [the Free Papua Organization].

“What we did, we did upon the instructions of Second Sgt. Irwan who was deputy at Gurage [military checkpoint]. We were all emotional because our colleague had been shot.

“We suspected those two men because they were wearing necklaces normally worn by members of the [OPM]. The incident occurred on May 27, just behind our Gurage post.”

Thamrin agreed with Jackson at Monday’s hearing, saying that it was Irwan who had instructed the unit to torture the two men.

“We were driven by the emotions felt by our corp, because our colleague had just been shot,” Thamrin said.

The three defendants were allegedly among a group of six soldiers featured in a 10-minute video that depicted Indonesian soldiers interrogating two bound Papuan men.

The online video showed one of the victims, Tunaliwor Kiwo, being burned on the genitals with a smoldering stick.

Telangga Gire, the other victim, is shown being threatened with a large knife.

Members of the Papuan Customary Council were able to meet with Kiwo, who had gone into hiding, and record his testimony.

Kiwo said he had been tortured for more than 48 hours, was repeatedly beaten, suffocated and burned with cigarettes.

He said his toes were crushed with pliers and that soldiers had rubbed chili paste, detergent and salt into his open wounds.

The National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) says the victims wanted to testify but were terrified of military reprisals, and had not received adequate safety guarantees.

Irwan, Jackson and Thamrin were previously charged with the more serious offense of assault under the civilian Criminal Code for their actions, but prosecutors had been unable to obtain the necessary physical evidence and statements from the victims and so the charges were dropped.

Amnesty International has urged Indonesia to ensure that the three soldiers are tried in full criminal procedures for torture or similar crimes.

Indonesia had pledged to rein in military abuses in regions such as Papua and the Maluku islands in return for renewed US military exchanges.

US State Department spokesman Philip Crowley last week said the United States is closely watching the progress of the trial.

“It’s vitally important for Indonesia to reform its security forces and hold those forces to high standards, in terms of individual conduct and human rights,” Crowley said.

The tribunal hearing will continue on Tuesday.