Treason Trials: Panel of judges reject demurrer by defendants

14 February 2012[Abridged in translation by TAPOL]

At the fourth hearing of the trial of Forkorus Yaboisembut and his colleagues which was held on 13 February, the panel of judges chaired by Jack Jacobus Octavianus SH announced that they could not accept the demurrer of the defendants which was submitted on  30 January, arguing that it was not in conformity with the law.

But the panel of judges failed to take into consideration the opening statement of the defendants which analysed the social, political and economic circumstances currently prevailing or the roots of the conflict in the Land of Papua at this time.

It was clear that the judges  only take into consideration  the thoughts and actions of the security forces such as the army, the police and the prosecutor and are only seeking those aspects of the law  which  restrict the right to freedom of expression of the majority of the Papuan people.

The defendants’ team of lawyers  went on to say that  the judges hearing the case are under pressure from forces outside the court of law as is clear from the fact that the head of the  Prosecutor’s Office along with the military commander of the Cenderawasih military command, the chief of police in  Papua and the prosecutor’s office  were approached prior to the hearing on 8 February and prior to the hearing held yesterday.

Our impression is, they said, that the powers that be in Indonesia  are very keenly following every aspect of the trial,  as is evident from the  extra tight security arrangements; the fact that access for the press to attend the trial  is very much restricted  while members of the public are not being allowed to enter the courtroom because it is packed with intelligence agents and members of various elements of the army and the police who are busy taking photographs and recording everything happening from very corner of the courtroom.

Forkorus, speaking on behalf of all the defendants, stood up and challenged the judges, saying that the judges will not be able to prevent him as the president of the NRFPB, the Federal Government of West Papua from reading out their rejection, a copy of which was then handed to the panel of judges

Responding to the statement of the defendants, Yan Christian Warinussy, a member of their legal team, said that the panel of judges should not at the forthcoming hearing try to restrict the defendants from expressing their views but should use those elements in the Criminal Code by simply noting the reports of the interrogations of the defendants (BAP).

The judges decision rejecting the defendants demurrer also called forth a strong statement from Yan Christian Warinussy who said that he did not agree with the viewpoint of the judges which only reflects the difference of opinion between the judges and the prosecutors and the legal team of the defendants, and he went on to say that it was wrong to say that their demurrer is not based on the law.

The team of lawyers also said that  the trial should be accessible to the international community and members of the diplomat corps in Jakarta so that they are able to follow developments in the trial.

The panel of judges then announced that the next hearing would take place on Friday, 17 February, when witnesses for the prosecution would be heard, most of whom are members of the police force which was involved in the attcks against the defendants and the mass of people, following the closure of the Papuan Peoples Conference (KRP III) on19 October last year.

Torture trial exposed as a ‘grand deception’ – Indonesian Government caught lying to US and Australian Governments

Article from The Age

A MILITARY trial into abuses by soldiers in Papua, trumpeted by Indonesia’s President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono as evidence of the country’s commitment to human rights ahead of Julia Gillard’s visit, has proven to be a grand deception.

The trial of four soldiers began on Friday in Jayapura, the capital of Papua province, amid assurances from the Indonesian government and military that those appearing were involved in the torture of two Papuan men depicted in a graphic video.

But when the trial started, it became apparent that the four defendants had nothing to do with the incident depicted in the video, which took place in Papua on May 30. Instead, they were four soldiers involved in another incident, in March, which was also captured on video. While disturbing – it involves soldiers kicking and hitting detained Papuans – the abuses in the March incident are milder than the genital burning torture in the May video.

Dubbed the ”red herring trial” by The Jakarta Post, human rights advocates said the deception proved the matter must be investigated by Indonesia’s human rights body and the perpetrators tried in Indonesia’s Human Rights Court.

Papuan activists said the ”farcical” military tribunal hearing was a deliberate strategy to deflect international condemnation ahead of the visits of Ms Gillard, who travelled to Jakarta last week, and US President Barack Obama, who arrives tomorrow.

A day before Ms Gillard’s visit, Dr Yudhoyono announced the trial was to take place and urged Ms Gillard not to raise the topic when they spoke. ”There’s no need to pressure Indonesia. We have conducted an investigation and are ready for a trial or anything that is required to uphold justice and discipline,” he said.

But at the weekend, Lieutenant Colonel Susilo, spokesman for TNI’s military command in Papua, admitted the soldiers before the tribunal had nothing to do with the torture.

”It is difficult for us to investigate the perpetrators in the second video because they did not show any attribute or uniform,” he said. ”So what we could do was working on the first video. We could recognise their units and faces easily. ”

Ms Gillard’s office and the Department of Foreign Affairs declined to comment.

West Papua torture victim speaks out

Report by Al Jazeera
Three Indonesian soldiers have appeared before a military tribunal in eastern Papua province to face charges over the alleged torture of Papuan civilians, which was captured on video.

Friday’s trial comes days ahead of a visit by Barack Obama, the US president, who seeks to resume ties with Indonesia.

The footage, posted online by human rights activists, showed soldiers applying a burning stick to the genitals of one of the unarmed men and threatening another with a knife.

The three defendants are from an infantry unit based in the city of Nabire in Papua province. Two other soldiers were called to appear as witnesses.

The graphic video drew international attention to allegations of widespread torture and abuse of activists and civilians in restive Indonesian regions such as Papua and the Maluku islands.

Victim speaks out

Al Jazeera has obtained a secretly filmed interview with Tunaliwor Kiwo, one of the torture victims who now lives in hiding in one of the most isolated areas in Papua.

Kiwo was burned with hot wires and cigarettes, repeatedly suffocated with a plastic bag and had a concoction of chili and salt rubbed into his open wounds.

“I kept screaming. But they didn’t care of the pain I suffered,” he was quoted as saying in the interview.

“The TNI (military) put gasoline and lit a fire and I was in the middle with the branches,” he said.

“I couldn’t move, the flames were approaching me, trying to burn my body and my legs and hands were still tied up. I was continuously hysterical, in pain.”

The incident occurred earlier this year in an area of Papua where Indonesian troops frequently clash with poorly armed separatist rebels from the indigenous Melanesian majority.

Rights groups including Amnesty International have called on Indonesia to punish the culprits and end an entrenched culture of impunity in the country’s security forces.

“From the beginning we have been demanding an independent investigation,” Marcus Haluk, a Papuan student leader, told Al Jazeera.

“The military can’t investigate a soldier. It would be like a thief investigating a thief,” he said.

Mending ties

Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, the Indonesian president, said on Monday there was “no immunity” for members of the country’s armed forces, ahead of talks in Jakarta with Julia Gillard, the visiting Australian prime minister.

Marty Natalegawa, the Indonesian foreign minister, told Al Jazeera that Indonesia has put the soldiers on trial “not because some government is knocking on our door, or because someone is telling us what to do”.

“We have taken the lead [in the investigation],” he said.

Al Jazeera’s Step Vaessen, reporting from Jakarta, the Indonesian capital, said that the testimony of the soldiers will further embarrass the Indonesian government.

Al Jazeera’s Step Vaessen reporting on the torture of Papuan civilians

“It is just a few days ahead of president Obama’s visit. Never before [has] a military trial [been] held this fast,” she said.

Robert Gates, the US defence secretary, met Yudhoyono in Jakarta in July and announced the US would lift a 12-year suspension of contacts with the Indonesian special forces as a result of “recent actions… to address human rights issues”.

Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, reportedly refused to comment on the specific torture allegations during a brief visit on Wednesday to Papua New Guinea, the independent eastern half of New Guinea island.

Indonesia incorporated the resource-rich but desperately poor western half of New Guinea in the 1960s after a UN-backed tribal vote, which separatists condemn as a sham.

Few Indonesian military officers have faced justice for rights abuses dating back decades, including alleged crimes against humanity in East Timor and the killing of thousands of political activists during the Suharto dictatorship.

Papua and the Malukus have underground separatist movements, which Indonesia regards as threats to its territorial unity.

Activists are regularly given lengthy jail terms for crimes such as possessing outlawed rebel flags.

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