Tribunal accused of ignoring human rights violations

Tribunal accused of ignoring human rights violations
The Jakarta Post, 14 January 2011

By: Nethy Dharma Somba


A military tribunal investigating three soldiers alleged to have assaulted civilians in an incident caught on video has been criticized of glossing over the real abuses.

“The defendants are being indicted for disobeying a superior’s command, while the torture they committed is left unaddressed,” Papua Human Rights Commission deputy chairman Mathius Murib said Thursday.

He said the farcical trial by the Jayapura Military Court III-9 was an effort to look past the deeper issue of human rights violations.

Military prosecutor Maj. Soemantri BR said the soldiers were charged with disobeying a command because there were no witnesses and that it was difficult for prosecutors to present evidence, including the video.

The only evidence that would be allowed in the trial is a CD record, he said. “We can prove the soldiers disobeyed a command, but not that they tortured civilians, as there is no supporting evidence.”

The three soldiers — Second Sergeant Irwan Riskianto, First Private Yakson Agu, and First Private Thamrin Mahagiri — of the 753rd Infantry Batallion allegedly resorted to torture while interrogating two civilians.

Military prosecutors charged the defendants with violating articles of the Military Criminal Code, under which they face a maximum penalty of two years imprisonment for “disobeying a command by a superior”.

“In a briefing given prior to their deployment, they were told not to hurt the people but try to win hearts instead,” presiding judge Lt. Col. Adil Karo-Karo said when reading the charge against Irwan.

The incident involving the three defendants took place on May 27, 2010, while they were assigned at Gurage village in Tingginambut district, Puncak Jaya regency, Papua.

The victims were identified as Anggen Pugo Kiwo and Telingga Gire. They were tortured on the day from noon to 3 p.m. local time for not answering questions put to them about the whereabouts of guns belonging to the Free Papua Movement (OPM) secessionist group.

Part of the interrogation was filmed by another soldier using a cellphone camera. In clips leaked onto the Internet, the two civilians were naked while the soldiers shoved hot embers into Anggen’s groin, and his head was covered with a black plastic bag.

Telingga, meanwhile, had a knife shoved in his face while his hands and legs were tied.

Anggen and Telingga had been traveling on motorcycle to the Puncak Jaya regency capital Kota Mulia when their bike broke down. The two men then reported their problem to a nearby military station.

Security in the area had been heightened after two soldiers were shot in an incident blamed on members of the OPM.

The military said that as Anggen wore a blue necklace similar to that traditionally worn by the OPM, soldiers detained both men and said they found two different identity cards in Anggen’s wallet.

Anggen was held and questioned about the OPM guns while Telingga was released to his family.

Anggen later escaped.

The next hearing is scheduled for Monday, where witnesses are expected to testify.