Torture case tests Indonesia

Torture case tests Indonesia
The Sydney Morning Herald, 4 December 2010

By: Tom Allard

JAKARTA: The Australian and US governments have urged Indonesia to bring to justice soldiers who tortured two Papuan men in May, in a case that has emerged as a key test of Indonesia's commitment to the rule of law and the reform of its military.

Ambassadors from the countries - which share a close security relationship with Indonesia - have raised the issue in the past week or so in response to a farcical investigation into the torture, which was captured on video and first revealed by the Herald.

After the video surfaced, coincidentally before the visit of the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, and the US President, Barack Obama, the Indonesian President, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, promised that the perpetrators would soon face trial.

Advertisement: Story continues below Four soldiers were court-martialled and sentenced to between five and seven months in prison. But it emerged that the men were on trial for an earlier, and far less serious, incident where the unarmed Papuans were kicked and hit with a helmet.

The investigation into the video, which shows Indonesian soldiers repeatedly burning the penis of a Papuan man while he cries in pain, has since stalled, with some senior Indonesian military officials continuing to say that those imprisoned were involved in the torture case.

Australia's chief of mission in Jakarta raised concerns about the case, which was particularly embarrassing for Dr Yudhoyono, given his assurances to Ms Gillard about swift action.

Ms Gillard confirmed the diplomacy yesterday, adding that she was confident Dr Yudhoyono wanted ''to see any wrongdoers brought to justice and he's very focused on that''.

Meanwhile, a US diplomatic source confirmed that its ambassador in Jakarta, Scot Marciel, had raised the issue with the Indonesian defence minister. ''We are not very happy at all with what's going on,'' the source said.