Soldiers stand trial over Papua abuse

Soldiers stand trial over Papua abuse
Sydney Morning Herald, 14 January 2011
By: Toni O'Loughlin


JAKARTA: Three Indonesian soldiers who videoed a Papuan man's agony as they repeatedly poked a fiery stick at his genitals and held a gun to his head have been charged with ignoring their commander's instructions.

Human rights activists say the video is clear evidence of human rights abuse and that the three soldiers from Battalion 753 should face Indonesia's Human Rights Tribunal.

But instead the soldiers are standing trial in a military court where they have been merely charged with failing to follow orders.

Advertisement: Story continues below The military prosecutor, Sumantri, said soldiers are supposed to ''interrogate people in a persuasive way''.

But when Second Sergeant Irwan Rizkianto, First Private Thamrin Mahangiri and First Private Yopsen Agu ''tied up the victim's head into a plastic bag'' then ''burn[ed] the victim's pubic hair'', they were disobeying orders, Mr Sumantri told the military tribunal.

They were also disobeying orders when they recorded the attack with a mobile phone, he said, even though one of the soldiers claimed Sergeant Rizkianto told them they needed the documentation to report back to their battalion commander.

While the soldiers confessed to the shocking attack, Mr Sumantri said no assault charges were laid because ''there is no victim''.

''The victim didn't report to us as a witness,'' he said.

Reports from Papua have identified the man who was tortured as Tunaliwor Kiwo but he has not been seen since the video was taken last May.

Another man, Telangga Gire, also appeared in the video with a knife placed at his throat but he is reportedly in hiding.

It is the second time in three months that video evidence of soldiers torturing Papuans has surfaced, fuelling allegations that the military systematically tortures members and supporters of the Free Papua Movement.

However, Komnas HAM, Indonesia's human rights commission, reviewed the video and last week concluded there was no ''evidence that violence was carried out in a systematic way to murder Papuans''.

As a result, Komnas decided not to set up an ad hoc team to investigate these cases as gross human rights violations, the commission said in a statement.

But Haris Azhar, the head of Kontras, an Indonesian human rights advocacy group, said the soldiers who were now on trial were being ''scapegoated''.

''The trial will not touch the higher ranks or commanders,'' Mr Haris said. ''We suspect that video recording is the [way they] report their activities to the commanders.''

with Karuni Rompies