Indonesia on Thursday sentenced four soldiers to between five and seven months in jail for “minor disciplinary infringements”, after they were filmed abusing Papuan civilians.
The soldiers sentenced were not those filmed burning an elderly Papuan man’s genitals, but ones captured kicking a group of villagers around the head. The soldiers involved in the more horrific footage have not been located, leading to human rights groups demanding an international enquiry into allegations of widespread torture across West Papua.
A military tribunal gave three privates five months each for breaching the military code of conduct and their platoon commander seven months for allowing the abuse to occur.
“The defendants kicked the detainees’ heads and backs and hit their heads with helmets,” chief judge Lieutenant-Colonel Adil Karokaro told the tribunal in Papua provincial capital, Jayapura.
The sentences were heavier than military prosecutors’ recommendation of three months.
Critics of the Indonesian military say the case would never have gone to court had a video of the abuse, which occurred in the Punjak Jaya area of Papua in March, not appeared online.
Human rights workers labelled the trial a farce after senior military officials said it would deal with soldiers involved in the gruesome and far more serious torture of two Papuan detainees in May.
A video of the May incident also found its way to human rights workers, who released it online ahead of visits to Jakarta by the leaders of Australia and the United States, two key backers of the Indonesian military.
Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono promised “no immunity” for the perpetrators but no charges have been laid.
Human rights activists accuse the Indonesian military of killings, murder, torture and abuse of Papua’s ethnic Melanesian majority.
Papuan separatists have fought a low-intensity war for independence for decades, claiming that a vote by a small group of tribal elders which ceded the massive territory to Indonesia in the 1960s was a sham.
Peaceful Papuan political activists are regularly given lengthy jail terms for crimes such as possessing outlawed rebel flags. One such person is Filep Karma, currently serving a 15 year jail sentence for his part in a peaceful flagraising ceremony.