Soldiers punished in ‘red herring’ case

Soldiers punished in ‘red herring’ case
, 12 November 2010

By: Nethy Dharma Somba

 

Three enlisted soldiers were sentenced to five months in prison on Thursday for their involvement in assaulting dozens of Puncak Jaya residents in March.

The officers were Chief Pvt. Sahminan Husain Lubis, Second Pvt. Joko Sulistiono and Second Pvt. Dwi Purwanto.

The verdict, read out by presiding judge Lt. Col. Adil Karokaro at the Cendrawasih Military Tribunal in Jayapura, was heavier than the three months sought by military prosecutors.

The panel of judges said the defendants had breached the Indonesian Military Code of Conduct.

The trial, slammed by critics as a red herring but trumpeted by Indonesia’s President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono as evidence of Indonesia’s commitment to upholding human rights ahead of the visits of Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard and US President Barack Obama, has been called “misleading” and “a farce” by rights activists.

The trial began amid assurances that the defendants were soldiers who had appeared in a widely distributed video depicting the graphic torture of two Papuan men, Anggen Pugu Kiwo and Telengga Gire, that was recorded on May 30.

The torture video shows the soldiers using burning sticks to scald the victims’ genitals.

Last week, the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) screened a half-hour testimony from Kiwo, who said he was imprisoned by soldiers for two days. Kiwo, a farmer, said he was walking with Gire when they were summoned by a group of soldiers. He was captured and separated from Gire.

He escaped after biting through the ropes tying his hands. During the ordeal, he was tortured and taunted by the soldiers.

However, when the trial of the four soldiers began, it became apparent that the four defendants had nothing to do with the events in the widely publicized video.

Instead, the four soldiers were involved in a separate case that took place in March, which was also captured on video, but one that was much less disturbing.

Earlier on Thursday, the officer’s superior, Second Lt. Cosmos, was sentenced to seven months in prison by the same court in the same case.

Cosmos ordered his subordinate First Pvt. Ishak to record the beatings and kicking using Cosmos’ cellphone.

Markus Haluk, a member of the Papua Customary Council, said he did not expect much from the trial, saying that an investigation by the Indonesian Military would be fruitless. Markus and other human rights activists have demanded that an independent fact-finding team probe reports of human rights violations in the resource-rich province.

He said the videos of beating and kicking in March and the Kiwo and Gire incident in May were only the tip of the iceberg as far as human rights violations by the military in Papua went.
 


Officers get 5 months in prison in ‘red herring’ torture trial
, 11 November 2010


Three low-ranking officers of the Pam Rahwan Yonif 753/Arga Vira Tama squad, based in Nabire, Papua, were handed down five months’ imprisonment on Thursday for their involvement in the torture of several Puncak Jaya residents in March.

The officers were Chief Pvt Sahminan Husain Lubis, Second Pvt Joko Sulistiono and Second Pvt Dwi Purwanto.

The verdict, read out by chief judge Lt. Col. Adil Karokaro at the Cendarawasih Military Court III/19 in Jayapura, was heavier than the three months previously demanded the military prosecutor.

According to tempointeraktif.com, The panel of judges said the defendants had breached the Indonesian Military Code of Conduct.

The trial, trumpeted by Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono as evidence of Indonesia's commitment to upholding human rights ahead of Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard's visit last week, has been widely criticized by human rights activists as deceptive, and was labeled by one international media outlet as a “red-herring”.

The trial of the four soldiers began amid assurances that the defendants were soldiers who had appeared in a widely distributed video depicting the graphic torture of two Papuan men that was presumed to have been recorded on May 30. The torture video shows the soldiers using burning sticks to scald the victims’ genitals.

However, as the trial began it became apparent that the four defendants had nothing to do with the events that took place in the widely publicized video.

Instead, the four soldiers were involved in a separate case that took place in March, which was also captured on video, but one that was much less disturbing.

Earlier on Thursday, the officer’s superior, Second Lt. Cosmos, was sentenced to seven months in prison by the same court in relation to the same case.

 


Short Sentences Sought for 4 Soldiers in Papua Torture Court-Martial
, 9 November 2010

 

By: Banjir Ambarita

 

Jakarta. Prosecutors at a military tribunal in Jayapura, Papua, on Tuesday sought three- to four-month prison terms for soldiers on trial for alleged abuses against 30 civilians in March.

The four defendants, all from the army’s Yonif 753 Arga Vira Tama infantry battalion stationed in Nabire, stand accused of disobeying orders.

The violence was recorded by one of the soldiers using a cellphone belonging to defendant platoon commander Sec. Lt. Cosmos.

“Cosmos as platoon commander had the authority to stop the violence committed by his subordinates.

Instead he provided them with the opportunity to do so,” Prosecutor Lt. Col. Edi Imran told Cosmos’s court-martial, presided over by Col. Madjid Adnan.

The prosecutors sought four months’ imprisonment and a Rp 20,000 ($2.25) fine for Cosmos for violating article 103 of the Military Penal Code.

Another team of prosecutors led by Maj. Obet Manase sought three-month terms and a Rp 10,000 fine for the other three defendants.

The defense is scheduled to present its final arguments when the court-martial resumes today.

International human rights groups have condemned the military for not prosecuting a more serious case depicted in another video that made it onto YouTube last month.

In the 10-minute video, as many as six soldiers could be seen torturing two men, applying a burning stick to one of the men’s genitals and threatening them with a knife and a gun.

The military had said this week’s court-martial would be that of the five soldiers implicated in this case of torture.

Andreas Harsono, of Human Rights Watch, slammed the switch, which it blamed on “Indonesia’s opaque military court system.”

He said the military was never really willing to try the case fairly, despite orders to do so from President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

Andreas blamed factions within the military for “trying to fool everyone concerned with this case.”

Markus Haluk, of the Papuan Customary Council (DAP), said that the hearing was a deliberate strategy to deflect international condemnation during the visit of US President Barrack Obama, who arrived in Jakarta for a two-day visit on Tuesday.

“The defendants were indicted on Friday, one witness was cross-examined and no victim was summoned to testify. This trial is all for show,” he said.

The military has so far failed to say why it switched the cases.

Few military officers have faced justice for rights abuses dating back decades, including alleged crimes against humanity in East Timor and the killing of thousands of political activists during the Suharto dictatorship.