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Govt must act on West Papua torture evidence

Indonesia Human Rights Committee calls on Government to act on West Papua torture evidence

IHRC has sent an urgent fax communication to Minister of Foreign Affairs, Murray McCully, urging him to respond to the leaked video evidence of shocking torture in West Papua. IHRC also calls for an end to NZ’s military training of Indonesian military officers.

The video has drawn protest and calls for accountability from Indonesian and international human rights groups and his been the subject of debate in the Indonesian House of Representatives.

Letter follows:

Hon Murray McCully
Parliament Buildings,

19 October, 2010,

Dear Murray McCully,

Yesterday the Sydney Morning Herald reported on a disturbing video, initially posted on Youtube but now appearing on other websites. The video graphically depicts the torture of two West Papuan men, one of whom has his genitals burnt with a smouldering stick. Both are subjected to repeated threats with a gun and knife held to their heads as they lie bound and held to the ground by the feet of their tormentors.

The video has generated calls from human rights groups in Indonesia and around the world for an urgent enquiry and for the perpetrators to be held to account. The new military chief, Admiral Agus Suhartono has undertaken to investigate, but there have also been calls in the Indonesian House of Representatives for the enquiry to be undertaken by the police rather than the military
New Zealand has bilateral programmes under which training is offered to Indonesian military officers and training in community policing is offered to the police in West Papua. Given these ties we believe that New Zealand must pursue answers about this latest evidence of ongoing human rights violations in West Papua. This is no time for New Zealand to be offering military training to Indonesia and these ties should be ended.

Since the video was posted anonymously it is not possible to know for certain who the perpetrators are. Initial reports surmised from the Papuan Lani dialect spoken by the victims that the video was filmed in Puncak Jaya, an area in the highlands where there has been ongoing conflict, military sweepings and widespread displacement of the indigenous people. Both the national police’s mobile brigade and the anti-terrorism unit Detachment 88 are active in the region. Today, there is additional information that suggests that the two men were filmed on May 30, a date which coincides with the disappearance of two Papuan men last seen at an Army checkpoint in Gurage, in the Tingginambut subdistrict of Puncak Jaya.
The latest commentary suggests that it is a reasonable assumption that the perpetrators are members of the Indonesian military from their language and the practiced nature of the interrogation.

In August another shocking leaked video gained coverage in the Los Angeles Times and around the world. It depicted the last moments of Papuan man Yawen Wayeni who is taunted by police as he lies dying from grievous abdominal wounds. In this instance the Indonesian police conceded that the video had been shot as evidence and while disputing some facts about how Yawen Wayeni’s wounds were inflicted they did not deny responsibility for his death.

In August we wrote to draw your attention to the arbitrary arrests and torture of activists in Maluku and the severe illness suffered by John Teterissa as a result of mistreatment in custody.

These episodes are not isolated but indicative of the callous brutality that characterises the actions of the security forces towards Papuan people and others whom they deem to be ‘separatist’. As Human Rights Watch pointed out in its 2010 Report “Indonesian authorities have responded to a longstanding, low-level armed separatist insurgency in the provinces of Papua and West Papua with a strong troop presence and often harsh and disproportionate responses to non-violent dissent or criticism.”

We therefore urge the Government to use its good offices to seek answers about this latest video and all the other documentation which indicates that torture and brutality is routinely carried out by Indonesian security forces. In view of the New Zealand’s involvement in military and police training we cannot turn a blind eye to this disturbing information. Military ties should be ended immediately.

Yours sincerely,

Maire Leadbeater
(for the Indonesia Human Rights Committee)


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