New details of torture by the Indonesian military in the Papua region have emerged as video testimony recorded by Papuan activists provide a victim’s account of two days of abuse.
In the video released by the Dewan Adat Papua tribal council, Tunaliwor Kiwo speaks about his torture by Indonesia soliders. Kiwo was one of the people whose abuse was recorded on a graphic YouTube video which drew international attention last month. In this most recent video, he says the soldiers used a number of methods of torture, including clamping his genitals, burning him with an iron rod, trying to suffocate him with plastic bags and pulling out his fingernails with pliers.
Five Indonesian soldiers are scheduled to face a military court in Jayapura this morning over the abuse of farmers Kiwo and Telengga Gire, but Kiwo’s detailed account is unlikely to be heard as evidence.
The first video depicted soldiers in the Puncak Jaya highlands of Papua, kicking a group of men, branding one man’s genitals with a burning stick and holding a knife to another man’s face, threatening to kill him. The soldiers were demanding to know the location of an alleged weapons cache.
The video had Australian activists pushing Prime Minister Julia Gillard to pressure Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to ensure the soldiers would undergo a fair and transparent trial. Australians have criticised their government for cooperating with and financially backing the Indonesian military when abuse cases like this keep emerging.
When Gillard visited Jakarta this week, she was hesitant to speak on the case at all. But the powerful video images of military brutality provoked at least an acknowledgment of the abuse by the PM. "President Yudhoyono has already made it clear that he will have an investigation of those matters and prosecutions will flow from that investigation," she said, adding little else.
Allegations of torture in Papua are not new. There has been a strong separatist movement there since it became part of Indonesia in the 1960s, and the military has had a presence there ever since. The Indonesian military says it keeps its soldiers in Papua to control separatist rebels.
Indonesia’s National Commission on Human Rights says that at least 50 people have died in conflict in Papua in the past few months — but the numbers out of Papua are always questionable. There are tight restrictions on foreign journalists entering the region, and Papuans are now turning to technology to tell their story to a wider audience.
The first video posted last month on YouTube has been watched around the world. Uncharacteristically, Indonesia admitted within days of the video’s release that the military was behind the acts shown and vowed to bring the soldiers to justice. The country continues to receive praise from world leaders for acting on the issue so swiftly.
In the new video, Kiwo explains the chronology of the two days of abuse, saying he and Gire were on their way to a store when soldiers called out to them, demanding to see their ID cards.
Kiwo says they presented the cards, and the soldiers immediately grabbed the men and tied their hands behind their backs with rope.
"Our legs were tied with barbed wire, then they pulled the end of the rope that our hands were tied with, and we were dragged," Kiwo said, according to a transcript of the video, provided by the Dewan Adat Papua tribal council, which conducted the interview.
Kiwo says he was held and tortured over the next day, while the other victim, Gire, was released to return to his family.
Andreas Harsono, a consultant with Human Rights Watch, says that the Indonesian military court is incapable of carrying out a fair trial. He says the case should be tried in a human rights court. Soldiers who have been sentenced to prison for abuse have in the past been allowed back into the military.
Until a better justice system for the military is established, and as long as abuses occur, Australia and other supporters of the military, like the United States, should cut off funds for the military until the abuse stops, Harsono says.
"The worst human rights abuses in Indonesia were when the US government was engaging with the [military]," Harsono said.
"I think the Australian government should be more consistent with what they say. They say there are human rights abuses taking place over and over again, over the years in Papua, in the Moluccas island. The Australian government should ask Indonesia to change their behaviour, the behaviour of soldiers and police."
The victims say they have not been contacted, let alone interviewed, by police, and their testimony will not be heard in court on Friday.
But presidential spokesman Teuku Faisasyah is confident that the military court will deliver a fair and transparent trial.
"I have confidence that they have looked through all the evidence that they could gather. The video itself is proof, evidence [that provides]a strong base for the court process," he said.
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