POLITICS

Indonesia’s military arrests 13 elite soldiers who are accused of involvement in a torture video

Mar 25, 2024, 9:11 AM

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Indonesia’s military said Monday it has arrested 13 elite troops accused of involvement in a video showing the torture of an indigenous Papua man believed to be a member of a separatist group.

The video that emerged in recent days on social media shows men who appear to be soldiers kicking, beating and dunking the man in a barrel of water.

“This is a violation of the law and we will act according to the applicable laws and regulations,” army spokesperson Brig. Gen. Kristomei Sianturi told a news conference, adding: “This is what we regret, that the Indonesian military or Indonesian army never taught, never approved any violence in asking for information.”

Sianturi said the incident occurred at a post for the border security task force in Puncak, a mountainous district of Central Papua province, on Feb. 3.

At least five men are seen in the video beating a man, taunting him with racist slurs and slicing into his back with a machete.

Sianturi said all 13 suspects had been detained at the military police’s maximum security detention center in West Java for further investigation.

Papua Military Chief Maj. Gen. Izak Pangemanan told reporters the abuse began after a shootout between security forces and separatist rebels suspected of burning a public health facility in Omukia village, 300 meters (yards) from a military post. Security forces arrested three men while others fled.

On the way to a police station, one of the men jumped from the car with his hands tied behind his back. His head hit a rock and he died on the way to a health facility, Pangemanan said.

Another man, seen in the video and identified as Definus Kogoya, tried to escape, Pangemanan said. Security forces recaptured him and tortured him at a military post in Gome in an effort to get information on the whereabouts of others, he said.

Kogoya’s condition has recovered after medical treatment and he has been returned to local police, Pangemanan said.

The video has sparked an outcry in Indonesia and from rights activists.

“This incident is cruel torture that truly destroys the instinct of justice,” said Usman Hamid, executive director of Amnesty International Indonesia. He said statements by military and government officials about their humane approach in the Papua region have become meaningless.

Conflicts between indigenous Papuans and Indonesian security forces are common in the impoverished Papua region, a former Dutch colony in the western part of New Guinea that is ethnically and culturally distinct from much of Indonesia. Papua was incorporated into Indonesia in 1969 after a U.N.-sponsored ballot that was widely seen as a sham. Since then, a low-level insurgency has simmered in the mineral-rich region.

Conflict there has spiked in the past year, with dozens of rebels, security forces and civilians killed.

Sebby Sambom, a spokesperson for the West Papua Liberation Army, the military wing of the pro-independence Free Papua Organization whose members are accused of burning the health facility, urged the United Nations to take action.

“This is shown that Indonesian military and police are real barbaric,” Sambom said.

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