Indonesia: Torture revealed, military ties remain

October 30, 2010
Indonesian soldiers on patrol in Timika, West Papua. Photo:

Videos showing the torture of West Papuans by occupying Indonesian soldiers have embarrassed the Indonesian government ahead of a scheduled visit in November by US President Barack Obama.

Obama is due to discuss a security deal that would involve the US training Indonesian military units accused of human rights violations.

A video posted at shows two Papuans from Gurage village being tied down and interrogated by Indonesian soldiers about the alleged location of weapons belonging to the Free Papua Movement (OPM).

The two were arrested on May 30. The OPM struggles for self-determination for West Papua, which has been occupied by Indonesia for more than four decades.

The soldiers aimed a rifle at the head of one of the prisoners, Tunaliwor Kiwo, and suffocated him with a plastic bag. When he failed to provide them with information, they scorched his genitals with a burning stick.

Kiwo never returned after his arrest and is presumed dead, the Sydney Morning Herald said on October 19.

The video also shows the second man, Telangga Gire being interrogated with a large knife pressed against his face. Human Rights Watch said on October 20 that Gire and his family are believed to be in hiding.

Another video at the same site shows Indonesian troops assaulting and verbally abusing detained Papuans, repeatedly kicking them in the head and hitting them with helmets.

Security forces have been accused of burning down villages in the Puncak Jaya region since June. The most recent incident occurred on October 11, a Dewan Adat Papua report said. An Indonesian paramilitary Brimob unit allegedly burned and looted Bigiragi village, leaving people homeless and without food.

These incidents are part of a long pattern that began when Indonesia took over West Papua in 1963. In 1969, a fraudulent “act of free choice” took place, in which a small hand-picked elite voted for the territory to remain governed by Indonesia.

Since then, West Papuans have been violently repressed and denied economic development so that Western and Indonesian companies could exploit the country’s rich natural resources.

The Indonesian government has admitted its soldiers had committed torture. Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono ordered a “thorough investigation”, the Jakarta Post said on October 23.

Despite claims of “modernisation” and “professionalism” in the Indonesian military, evidence from West Papua and other parts of Indonesia show little has changed since the Suharto dictatorship was overthrown in 1998.

Despite this, US defence secretary Robert Gates announced a resumption of links with the Kopassus commando unit after a 12-year hiatus when he visited Jakarta in July, the Southeast Asian Times said on October 24.

Kopassus is notorious for its long list of human rights abuses during the Suharto era.

The Australian government also plans to continue with its security links, the October 19 SMH said. The head of Australia’s foreign affairs department, Dennis Richardson, told SMH the links to military units accused of human rights violations were necessary to protect Australians from terrorism.

Joe Collins of the Australia West Papua Association said on October 19: “How does the Australian military and the government justify training these people?

“In light of these reports it’s time for the government to hold an inquiry into how our aid and training is being used by the Indonesian security forces.”

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