HRW: Indonesia: Hold Abusers From Military Accountable

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Human Rights Watch (New York)

January 25, 2011

For Immediate Release

Indonesia: Hold Abusers From Military Accountable

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
Leahy law.

“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.”

To read Human Rights Watch’s World Report 2011 chapter on Indonesia,
please visit:

To read the Human Rights Watch World Report 2011, please visit:

For more information, please contact:
In Perth, Elaine Pearson (English): +61-415-489-428 (mobile)
In Washington, DC, Sophie Richardson (English, Mandarin):
+1-917-721-7473 (mobile)
In Jakarta, Andreas Harsono (English, Bahasa Indonesia):
+62-815-950-9000 (mobile)

One thought on “HRW: Indonesia: Hold Abusers From Military Accountable

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Please leave a comment. Keep it nice to other users, and remember, no disrepect tolerated. Yell at the killers, not each other; Criticise the abusers deed, not their race or faith.. And please keep it relevant and punchy.

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