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Clinton Avoids Indo Papuan Torture Issue

By Ilya Gridneff, Papua New Guinea Correspondent
PORT MORESBY, Nov 3 2010

US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton has declined to comment on Indonesian military filmed torturing West Papuans. In late October Indonesia admitted that its soldiers had tortured Papuan men seen in an online video being beaten and humiliated, and promised a thorough investigation.

Amnesty's Asia-Pacific Deputy Director Donna Guest said in a statement at the time: "The release of this video is the latest reminder that torture and other ill-treatment in Indonesia often goes unchecked and unpunished."

But Mrs Clinton told reporters, during a brief visit to Papua New Guinea on Wednesday, the US was "a friend and ally" of both Indonesia and PNG. "I have no comment on the specific matter you refer to," she said.

"The government of Indonesia and the Indonesia military has made significant changes in the last years, in the ten years of democracy. "If there are continuing violations of human rights, then they should be investigated by the appropriate authorities and those responsible should be held accountable," she said.

PNG, which shares a 750km border with Indonesia, allows Papuans to cross into their country and has given many Papuans refugee status due to prolonged persecution by Indonesia authorities. PNG prime minister Michael Somare said PNG Foreign Affairs minster Sam Abal contacted his counterpart in Indonesia regarding the issue but has not had a response. "The particular incident you are talking about, we are aware of it," Sir Michael said. "It does happen. "There are groups who are anti-Indonesia, they're our citizens, Papuans, West Papuans, they want to choose, they want self determination. "People want to go against the system and these things happen," he said.

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Sir Michael said PNG shares "excellent relations" with Indonesia and commended the current president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono._ "The Yudhoyono administration has really moved far, far ahead (on the Papuan issue)," he said.

Indonesia took formal control of the Dutch colony in a widely criticised 1969 UN-sponsored vote by 1022 hand-picked Papuan village elders. _ Since then Indonesia has neutralised the Papuans' stubborn campaign for self-rule of a province where the traditional landowners have become an ethnic minority. _ The Papuan cause is Indonesia's biggest unresolved territorial dispute since East Timor gained independence in 1999 and Aceh's conflict was resolved in 2005.

ENDS

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