Govt urged to verify Papua torture video

Govt urged to verify Papua torture video
, 19 October 2010

Legislators and human rights activists have urged the government to verify the authenticity of a video that appears to show men in military uniform torturing an indigenous Papuan, including one scene in which soldiers press a red-hot stick against the man’s genitals.

The Asian Human Rights Commission posted the nearly five-minute-long video on YouTube for 22 hours Saturday before removing it, reported.

“The government must find out the truth behind the video, including checking the place, time and people involved in the video,” National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM) chairman Ifdhal Kasim said, adding that the government must take legal action against the culprits if the video turned out to be genuine.

In the video, the torturers held a knife against the throat of a Papuan man, who is almost completely naked and lying on the ground. In another scene, a man with a black bag on his head presses a glowing bamboo stick against the victim’s genitals.

According to a transcript of the audio portion of the video provided by Solidarity for Papua, men dressed in military fatigues compelled the hostage Papuan to reveal the whereabouts of a weapons cache, threatening to shoot him and burn his genitals if he did not.

In 1962 the Indonesian government sent a military mission to Papua to seize the territory. In 1971, the government under Soeharto established in the western part of Papua a so-called Military Operation Zone, which was eventually dissolved in 1998.

In 2001, the government granted Papua special autonomy status. However, the autonomy failed to stop human rights violations, such as the alleged murder of Theys Hiyo Eluay, leader of the Papua Presidium, by Indonesian soldiers on Nov. 10, 2001.

Ifdhal said the government should investigate the video and not simply deny any government involvement in the actions depicted in it.

He said a failure by the government to ascertain the truth behind the video would intensify public distrust of the government’s role in Papua.

He told The Jakarta Post that commission members in Papua had begun questioning sources in connection with the video.

House of Representatives’ Commission I chairman Mahfudz Siddiq said that the Justice and Human Rights Ministry and the military must form a team to investigate the video, but added that only the police were authorized to interrogate suspects. Indonesian Military chief Adm. Agus Suhartono said he had instructed his men to verify the video’s authenticity.

“I have just received the report, so I am in the midst of instructing a check of the [video’s] authenticity,” he said as reported by

He said the military’s procedures for interrogating suspected separatists were based on human rights guidelines. He said he would respect any legal process aimed at the tormenters in the video if the material was proven to be authentic.

Military District spokesman Lt. Col. Inf. Susilo said it was unclear if the perpetrators in the video were members of the military or the police. He said the video might be old, which might imply soldiers were the perpetrators, he said.

“It’s too early to say the military were the perpetrators in the video,” he said. (gzl)