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Indonesian Military Tortures Indigenous Papuans

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Published on Nov 18, 2010

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received video footage from sources in West Papua, who must remain anonymous for security reasons, showing the torture of indigenous Papuans by the Indonesian military (TNI). The AHRC has chosen to remove some of the scenes showing the burning of one of the victims' genitals.

The video was recently recorded in the Tingginambut area in West Papua. The current whereabouts of the victims in this video are unknown. The AHRC understands that both incidents in the video involved members of the Indonesian military. The first incident shows uniformed members of the Indonesian army ill-treating indigenous Papuans. The second incident also reportedly involves members of the army committing grave abuses.

"This is only one of numerous cases of torture by the military in Papua that has been reported to us," explained Wong Kai Shing, Executive Director of the AHRC. "The Indonesian government must adopt a zero-tolerance policy concerning torture, as recommended by the United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Dr. Manfred Nowak" he continued.

Indonesia ratified the UN Convention Against Torture in 1998, but acts of torture continue to go unpunished. As a result, torture is in fact encouraged as a mean of interrogation and intimidation by the police and the military.

The military enjoys special immunity, since its members cannot be held accountable in civilian courts. Military courts are known to give at best only lenient punishments for serious human rights violations, and often do not punish those thought to be responsible at all.

The Indonesian military regularly runs so-called sweeping operations including the burning of village houses, killing of livestock, arrests and other forms of intimidation in areas where separatists are suspected of being located.

"The people who suffer most from anti-separatist sweeping operations by the military are innocent civilians" Wong Kai Shing reminded. "The Indonesian government has to ensure impartial investigations into the cruel acts of violence portrayed in this video. All perpetrators have to be brought to justice" he said.

The government of Indonesia has deployed a significant military force in Papua, ostensibly to ensure security, but as a result numerous serious human rights violations are being committed. This approach has heightened tensions and has worsened the conflict. Repeated requests by West Papuans for dialogue under international supervision have not yet been answered by Jakarta.

West Papua comprises Indonesia's richest provinces in terms of resources, and the autonomy law concerning Papua effectively exists only on paper, as it has not resulted in any decrease in poverty in practice.

The repressive environment in West Papua makes human rights work very difficult for local activists. Foreign journalists and human rights organisations are not given visas to enter the region. The recent killing of a journalist in Merauke, Papua and the indiscriminate shooting at a crowd by the police that resulted in several deaths in Wamena are examples of the serious violations taking place in Papua. Several activists remain imprisoned for having peacefully voiced their political views.

It is imperative that the Indonesian government strongly condemn all acts of torture and ensure that those in the military that are responsible for the acts documented in the torture video are brought to justice for their crimes. Crimes by members of the military against civilians must be tried by civilian courts and the law must be reformed in order to ensure this.

Sweeping operations by the military, that involve indiscriminate and excessive use of force and numerous widespread human rights violations, must be halted. Policies and acts of intimidation against human rights defenders must also be put to an end and rights enshrined in the country's constitution and its obligations under international law must be guaranteed at all times, throughout the country, including in West Papua. Beyond this, the Indonesian government should ensure that the Anti Corruption Commission (KPK) is fighting corruption in the public service effectively in Papua as a priority, in order to combat the rampant disappearance of autonomy fund budgets, in order to enable development and the improvement of life for all in West Papua.

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