WASHINGTON, Jan. 26 (AFP) — The United States on Tuesday
slammed as too lenient an Indonesian court martial for jailing three
soldiers for up to 10 months for abuse and insubordination after
they were shown torturing civilians.
The sentences “do not reflect the seriousness of the abuses of
two Papuan men depicted in 2010 video,” State Department
spokesman Philip Crowley said on the microblogging website
“Indonesia must hold its armed forces accountable for violations
of human rights. We are concerned and will continue to follow
this case,” Crowley added.
The relatively light sentences prompted anger among campaigners,
who accuse the Indonesian military of acting with impunity
against the indigenous Melanesian majority in the far-eastern
province of Papua.
The military tribunal found the trio guilty of abuse and
disobeying orders, and sentenced Second Sergeant Irwan
Rizkiyanto to 10 months in jail, First Private Yakson Agu to
nine months, and First Private Tamrin Mahan Giri to eight months.
In footage posted on YouTube last year, the soldiers were seen
applying a burning stick to the genitals of an unarmed man and
threatening another with a knife as they interrogated them about
the location of a weapons cache.
More Than 100 Political Prisoners Held for Protesting Peacefully
(New York, January 25, 2011) – The Indonesian government should ensure
that soldiers responsible for abuses are appropriately prosecuted and
punished, Human Rights Watch said today in its World Report 2011. The
January 24, 2011 verdict in a Papua military tribunal of eight to ten
months imprisonment for soldiers who engaged in torture was woefully
inadequate, Human Rights Watch said.
The 649-page report, Human Rights Watch’s 21st annual review of human
rights practices around the globe, summarizes major human rights
trends in more than 90 countries and territories worldwide. Over the
past 12 years, Indonesia, the report says, has made great strides in
becoming a stable, democratic country with a strong civil society and
independent media, but serious human rights concerns remain.
“Senior officials must both talk the talk and walk the walk on human
rights,” said Elaine Pearson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights
Watch. “The military should stop shielding its officers from
prosecution, and the government needs to hold abusers accountable.”
In July 2010, the US government lifted its ban on military assistance
to Kopassus, Indonesia’s elite special forces, despite continuing
concerns about its human rights record. Strong evidence of security
force involvement in torture emerged in 2010. Defense Minister Purnomo
Yusgiantoro pledged to suspend soldiers credibly accused of serious
human rights abuses, to discharge those convicted of abuse, and to
cooperate with their prosecution. But only a handful of cases made it
to military tribunals, and the charges did not reflect the gravity of
the abuses committed.
In October, a 10-minute cell phone video came to light that showed
Indonesian soldiers interrogating and brutally torturing two Papuan
men, Tunaliwor Kiwo and Telangga Gire. In the video, Kiwo screams as a
piece of burning wood is repeatedly jabbed at his genitals. After
pressure from foreign governments, the military finally held a
tribunal in Jayapura, Papua, in January. But it is only tried three of
six soldiers in the video – Second Sgt. Irwan Rizkiyanto, First Pvt.
Jackson Agu, and First Pvt. Thamrin Mahamiri of the Army’s Strategic
and Reserve Command (Kostrad) 753rd battalion – on military
discipline charges, rather than for torture. The three were sentenced
to ten months, nine months, and eight months respectively. Military
prosecutors only sought sentences of up to 12 months rather than the
maximum 30 months as allowed under the military criminal code.
Another torture case captured on video in 2010 involved several
soldiers kicking and beating villagers in Papua. Four soldiers from
the same Kostrad 753rd battalion were tried on military disciplinary
grounds and were sentenced only to five to seven months in prison. The
convictions are on appeal before the Surabaya high military tribunal.
These two cases were unusual in that the ill-treatment was captured on
video, but for years Human Rights Watch has documented serious human
rights violations in Papua for which soldiers have never been held to
account. Human Rights Watch called on the US to publicly clarify its
relationship with the Kostrad 753rd battalion and the individuals
involved in this incident, in order to ensure compliance with the
“Rather than cooperating with civilian authorities and suspending the
soldiers involved as soon as the video appeared, the Indonesian
government has dragged its feet and reluctantly done the bare minimum
to try and make this go away,” said Pearson. “This is not the new and
improved army that the defense minister promised, but the same old
military impunity we’ve seen for decades in Indonesia.”
The government did little to curb attacks and discrimination against
religious, sexual, and ethnic minorities during 2010. On several
occasions, militant Islamic groups mobilized large groups of private
citizens and attacked places of worship of religious minorities.
Police frequently failed to arrest the perpetrators of the violence.
While Indonesia has vibrant media, throughout 2010 Indonesian
authorities invoked harsh laws to prosecute individuals who raised
controversial issues, chilling peaceful expression. Indonesia’s
criminal libel, slander, and “insult” laws prohibit deliberately
“insulting” a public official and intentionally publicizing statements
that harm another person’s reputation, even if those statements are
true. For instance, in early 2010, Tukijo, a farmer from Yogyakarta,
was sentenced to six months’ probation and a three-month suspended
prison sentence for criminal defamation after he argued with a local
official regarding a land assessment.
The government has imprisoned more than 100 activists from the
Moluccas and Papua for rebellion for peacefully voicing political
views, holding demonstrations, and raising separatist flags. In
August, the authorities arrested 21 Southern Moluccas activists in
Ambon and Saparua and charged them with treason for planning to fly
balloons and Southern Moluccas Republic flags during a visit by
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
The country’s political prisoners include Filep Karma, 51, a Papuan
civil servant imprisoned for organizing a Papuan independence rally on
December 1, 2004, and Buchtar Tabuni, 31, a leader of the West Papua
National Committee, a Papuan independence organization that has grown
more radical since his imprisonment.
Government restrictions on access to Papua by foreign human rights
monitors and journalists imposed when Indonesia took over Papua in
1969 remained in place in 2010.
“By keeping the foreign media and rights organizations out of Papua,
the Indonesian government is all but admitting that serious abuses
persist,” Pearson said. “Ending those restrictions would be a first
step in reversing Papua’s downward spiral.”
For more information, please contact:
In Perth, Elaine Pearson (English): +61-415-489-428 (mobile)
In Washington, DC, Sophie Richardson (English, Mandarin):
In Jakarta, Andreas Harsono (English, Bahasa Indonesia):
The Australian Greens have called for the Government to cut all military
ties with Indonesia in response to light jail terms handed down
yesterday to Indonesian soldiers who tortured two Papuan men.
Greens legal affairs spokesperson Senator Scott Ludlam said the conduct
of the Indonesian government and the farcical trial of the three
soldiers involved showed a “total lack of respect for human rights”.
“What we have here is an open and shut case of severe torture, with
video evidence, and the soldiers responsible will spend, at most, 10
months in prison and then continue their careers in the Indonesian army
– they won’t even be discharged. It is a disgrace – an absolute
disgrace,” said Senator Ludlam.
“There is no ambiguity here. A video of the torture shows the soldiers
burn one man’s genitals, suffocate him with a plastic bag and hold a
knife to his throat. One of the victims said he was beaten for two days,
held over a fire and had chillies rubbed into his wounds,” he said.
“First the Indonesian authorities claimed their soldiers were not
responsible, and then charged them with ‘disobeying orders’. It was a
pathetic response from a government that couldn’t care less about the
human rights of the Papuan people.”
Senator Ludlam said the Australian Government must cut military and
para-military ties with Indonesia.
“Why are we helping to train and arm these soldiers? Why do we fund the Indonesian National Police when its Detachment 88, a so-called
counter-terrorism unit, has been linked to a series of human rights
abuses?” said Senator Ludlam. “While human rights abuses, while torture
continues in Papua and Maluku, we can not fund and train the people
Light Sentences for Rights Violators Spark Calls for Suspension of Aid to Abusive and Unaccountable Indonesian Military
Contact: Ed McWilliams (WPAT), +1-575-648-2078
Paul Barber (TAPOL) +44 1420 80153 or +44 774 730 1739
John M. Miller (ETAN) +1-917-690-4391
The West Papua Advocacy Team (WPAT), East and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) and TAPOL condemn the Indonesian government’s failure to hold Indonesian military personnel responsible for the grave crime of torture of two Papuans. The torture was revealed in a video posted online in October 2010 shocked the international community ( http://www.etan.org/news/2010/10video.htm). Rather than try the perpetrators before a civilian court the Indonesian government allowed the Indonesian military to try the soldiers in a military court. On January 24, the Military Court in Papua sentenced three soldiers to minimal sentences of eight to 10 months imprisonment for the minor procedural offense of disobeying orders.
The Indonesian Government’s refusal to prosecute the perpetrators in a civilian court and the failure to charge them with serious criminal offences commensurate with the violence inflicted on the victims reflect a longstanding pattern where security force personnel who commit heinous crimes against Papuans are not inadequately punished, if they are punished at all. For example, the special forces (Kopassus) personnel convicted by a military court for the torture-murder of the leading Papuan political figure, Theys Eluay, in 2001 similarly received sentences not commensurate with the crime. They were lauded publicly by a leading Indonesian military figure as “heroes.”
Unfortunately, Indonesia President’s Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in pre-sentencing public remarks described the torture, which included the burning of the genitals of a Papuan man with a stick pulled from the fire, as “only a minor incident.” This dismissal of the seriousness of the crime reinforces a pattern of impunity for security personnel.
WPAT, ETAN and TAPOL remain concerned that Indonesia has refused to make torture a specific offence under Indonesian criminal law, notwithstanding Indonesia’s obligations under the United Nations Convention Against Torture which it signed in 1985 and ratified in 1998. We urge Indonesia to do so.
Indonesian military personnel, especially those operating in West Papua, which has seen the worst security forces abuse over the past decade, continue to perpetrate torture, rape, extrajudicial killings and other well documented abuses in part because they are aware they will never be effectively prosecuted for these crimes. By refusing to prosecute military offenders to the full extend of the law in civilian courts the Indonesian government is complicit in the military’s continuing abuses.
The impunity long enjoyed by Indonesian security personnel for their criminal behavior stands in stark contrast to the severe sentences meted out to Papuans who assemble peacefully to protest decades of Indonesian government repression and the denial of essential services to the Papuan people. Dozens of Papuans have been imprisoned for years where, as described by UN reports, these peaceful dissenters endure health and life threatening treatment and conditions. Amnesty International and other reputable human rights organizations have identified many as “prisoners of conscience.”
Government restrictions on travel to and within West Papua have long impeded the ability of the international community to monitor human rights and other developments. Indonesian security and intelligence forces within West Papua routinely shadow and obstruct the movement of the few international journalists and even diplomats who do manage to enter West Papua. Papuans who speak to these observers are often threatened and harassed.
The U.S. and other governments should act in a substantive way to end the continued abuses by Indonesian security forces against Papuans. The U.S., in particular, should exercise its significant leverage by suspending its extensive and expanding military assistance programs for Indonesia pending real reform of the Indonesian military. This reform should, at minimum, include an end to human rights violations by Indonesian military personnel, as well as effective prosecution in civilian courts of military personnel who perpetrate abuses and with sentencing commensurate with the crimes. The U.S. should also make any resumption of military-to-military cooperation contingent on an end to Indonesian government restrictions on access to West Papua by independent journalists and other observers, as well as an end to Indonesian security and intelligence force intimidation of those Papuans peacefully advocating for their political and other human rights.
More generally, WPAT, ETAN and TAPOL appeal to the governments of the United States and the United Kingdom and the European Union to promptly and publicly register with the Indonesian government their deep concern over what is only this latest example of decades of failed justice in West Papua.