Civilised Society Has No Place for Torture

Editorial: Civilised Society Has No Place for Torture

, 23 October 2010

Torture has no place in a modern, civilized society. Period. It is thus distressing to learn that certain members of the military have engaged in such practices against innocent civilians in Papua.

After more than a decade of democratic reforms, especially within the security forces, the emergence of evidence of the torture carried out by soldiers is inexcusable.

The video of two Papuans being burned and beaten has been played and viewed worldwide, damaging the reputation of both the nation and the institution.

Indonesia has boasted of its record of protecting human rights in recent years.

Even terrorists who have been arrested have been allowed due process and tried in an open court.

Human rights form a fundamental principle of democracy and must be protected at all costs. This latest incident clearly undermines this belief.

To its credit, the TNI has not attempted to conceal the episode or sweep it under the rug.

Coordinating Minister for Politics, Legal and Security Affairs, Djoko Suyanto, speaking to journalists after a limited cabinet meeting to discuss the video, has said the military was still investigating the report.

“But the preliminary explanation is that the incident really took place, and it is true that the perpetrators are members of the military,” Djoko said.

This is a good start toward tackling the problem. The military must conduct a transparent and thorough investigation into the incident and punish those involved.
And the sanctions meted out should be proportionate to the crime they did as well as to the damage it inflicted on the country’s image.

The military must also apologize and compensate the Papuans who were tortured and also ensure the safety of the witnesses and their families.

A professional and disciplined military is critical to national defense and to countering separatist movements.

Excessive actions and physical abuse by soldiers in the field in handling those who have been arrested or suspected of waging war against the state not only damages the reputation of the TNI but is also counter-productive.

To effectively fight a separatist movement, the army must win over the confidence and trust of the local population.

The economic and prosperity approach taken by the government in dealing with Papua is not enough.

Despite the billions poured into Papua and neighboring West Papua, resentment against the central government has remained high.

Torturing civilians will only drive a wedge between the military and local communities, making it significantly more difficult to achieve the stated objective.

We hope the torture captured on video is a one-off incident and not systemic within the organization.

It will be difficult for the TNI to win the trust of the Papuans after this but making a public apology will go a long way toward healing the open wound.