Deceived: Papua trial does not include video torturers

Deceived: Papua trial does not include video torturers

Sydney Morning Herald, 8 November 2010

By: Tom Allard

A MILITARY trial into abuses committed by soldiers in Papua, trumpeted by the Indonesian President, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, before a visit by the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, as evidence of the country's commitment to human rights, has proven to be a grand deception.

The trial of four soldiers began on Friday in Jayapura, the capital of Papua province, amid assurances from the Indonesian government and military that those appearing were involved in the torture on May 30 of two Papuan men depicted in a graphic video.

But when the trial started, it soon became apparent the four defendants had nothing to do with the incident in that video. Instead, they were four soldiers involved in an incident that occurred in March, also captured on video.

While disturbing, the earlier video involves soldiers kicking and hitting detained Papuans, far milder abuses compared with the torture depicted in the later video.

The video of the more egregious torture shows one of the men, identified as Tunaliwor Kiwo, having his penis repeatedly burnt by his interrogators as he wails in agony. He is also suffocated at one point, while the other victim, believed to be Telangga Gire, is threatened with having his throat cut.

Described as the ''red herring trial'' by The Jakarta Post, human rights advocates said the deception by the military proved the matter had to be investigated by Indonesia's human rights body, Komnasham, and the perpetrators tried in Indonesia's little used Human Rights Court.

Papuan activists said the tribunal hearing was a strategy to deflect international condemnation of the torture before the visits of Ms Gillard, who travelled to Jakarta last week, and the US President, Barack Obama, who arrives tomorrow.

The torture video, first revealed in the Herald on October 18, was shown widely in Indonesia and on international news channels.

A separatist struggle has long simmered in Papua and there is a heavy military and police presence there. Foreign media are banned from going there without special permission.

The video provided documentary evidence of frequently alleged human rights violations by Indonesian security forces in Papua. After a cabinet meeting held four days after the video was revealed, Dr Yudhoyono demanded prompt justice and the country's security minister admitted the perpetrators were Indonesian soldiers.

About a week later, and a day before Ms Gillard's visit, Dr Yudhoyono announced the trial was to take place and urged Ms Gillard not to raise the topic.

At all times, both military and presidential spokesmen assured reporters that the trial dealt with the genital-burning video.

But, later, the spokesman for the Indonesian military command in Papua, Lieutenant Colonel Susilo, admitted the soldiers appearing before the tribunal had nothing to do with that video.

''It is difficult for us to investigate the perpetrators in the second video because they did not show any attribute or uniform,'' Colonel Susilo said. ''So what we could do was working on the first video. We could recognise their units and faces easily.''