Red herring trial draws criticisms

Red herring trial draws criticisms
, 6 November 2010


Activists condemned the military’s decision to hold a tribunal in Jayapura on Friday over an alleged torture video, calling it “misleading” and “a farce” to distract the public from the heart of the matter.

On Friday, the Jayapura military tribunal held a hearing for four defendants, local military post chief Second Brig. Cosmos K. and his subordinates Syaminan Lubis, Joko Sulistyo and Dwi Purwanto.

The head of the Jayapura military tribunal, Adil K., said Thursday they would bring four soldiers to trial in relation with a torture video on YouTube, leading the public to believe that the defendants were the suspected perpetrators torturers of two Papuans in a video circulated on the Internet that created global outcry for its cruelty.

The testimony of the defendants on Friday, however, revealed that the case was related to another video where the four defendants beat and kicked several residents of Gurage village in Puncak Jaya. The abuse in the video, dated March 17 this year, was milder than the one inflicted on Anggen Pugu Kiwo and Telengga Gire in May.

The four defendants said they were searching for Davis Tabuni, a suspected separatist, in Gurage. They rounded up 30 villagers to get them to squeal about Tabuni’s weapons cache. The four kicked and beat the residents while another soldier, First Private Ishak, recorded the torture using Cosmos’ cellphone for 15 minutes.

Phil Robertson, the deputy director of the Asia division of Human Rights Watch (HRW), said the trial was “misleading” because it was mistakenly believed to be that of Indonesian soldiers burning a Papuan’s genitals in May, the video of which began circulating on YouTube on Oct. 17.

“What you hear is apparently not what you get in Indonesia’s opaque military court system, which so often operates behind closed doors and so rarely dispenses justice to victims of abuse by soldiers,” he said.

“How many more videos of torture need to come out of Papua before the Obama administration and the international community realize there is a systemic human rights problem of security force abuses in Papua that needs to be addressed? This should be at the top of the agenda when President Obama visits Jakarta next week,” he said.

Markus Haluk, a member of the Papua Customary Council, said he was not surprised at Friday’s military tribunal “farce”.

The trial, he said, was intended to distract the public as well as Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who visited Indonesia earlier this week, and US President Barack Obama, scheduled to meet President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Tuesday, from more serious atrocities.

He said Papuans had witnesses many perpetrators of violence and murders getting away lightly.

Markus said what the public saw in several recent videos was a small part of the widespread practice of torture, rape and murder of Papuans.

“There has never been justice for Papuans,” Markus said.

The accused: Five soldiers exit a military courtroom in Jayapura, Papua, on Friday after they were indicted of violence against unarmed civilians. Four of the five were caught torturing local Papuans in a video. JP/Nethy Dharma Somba






He said the government labeled all Papuans “separatists”, giving the military and police carte blanche to torture Papuans. The label “separatists” justifies violence against all Papuans, he went on.

On Friday, human rights activists handed recorded testimony from torture victim Anggen Pugu Kiwo to the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM).

In the video, Kiwo, 50, a farmer in Tinggi Nambut district, spoke about his torture at the hands of soldiers, including when the torturers clamped his penis with pliers and burned his body, between May 30 and June 1.

Kiwo managed to escape on the second day after biting the rope tying his hands.

Activists also urged the commission to establish a special team to investigate the torture of Papuan civilians by members of the Indonesian Military.

“Komnas HAM should set up a special fact-finding team to investigate the violence. The military has committed violence against civilians and killed people in the name of fighting separatism,” Markus said.

Sri Suparyati from the Commission for Victims of Violence and Missing Persons (Kontras) said the commission had to pay special attention to torture in Papua, which could be categorized as gross human rights violations.

Kontras recorded that torture, which often led to murder, frequently occurred in various places throughout the province since 2008. (lnd)