Seven Indonesian soldiers have been detained by the military police on suspicion of abusing 12 people at a public meeting in Papua’s Jayawijaya district, in the latest allegation of rights abuses by the armed forces there.
The soldiers were taken into custody after reports surfaced that they had beaten, kicked and humiliated residents of Kurulu village last week, Col. Ibnu Tri Widodo, head of the district military command, said on Monday (07/11).
“The soldiers are believed to have tortured the civilians, forcing them to crawl, beating them and holding their heads under water,” Ibnu said. “For these actions, they are being held by the military police in Wamena [the district capital].”
Following the reports of the alleged abuse, he said, all the soldiers stationed in the Kurulu area had been posted elsewhere and replaced. He also promised that troops would no longer act “arrogantly” toward civilians.
“We have to be better and prevent violence against civilians,” he said.
The Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) said the soldiers saw the civilians participating in a traditional tribal council last Wednesday and assumed the meeting was a pro-separatist gathering.
The participants may try to take legal action in the Wamena District Court, challenging the legal principle that soldiers can only be forced to appear before a military tribunal, Kontras said.
Usman Hamid, a Kontras commissioner, said a tribunal would only hand out cursory punishments, failing to address the litany of rights abuses in the province by the armed forces. He said it was not enough to punish the individual soldiers accused of violence, who in this case range in rank from private to sergeant.
“These cases occur so frequently and it’s always the underlings who get blamed by their superiors,” Usman said. “But an objective investigation could very well show that violence was also carried out by, or at least ordered by, higher-ranking officers.”
Similar cases of military abuse against Papuan civilians have largely resulted in light sentences for low-ranking personnel. In August, three soldiers accused of killing a Papuan man were given 15 months in jail for insubordination by a military tribunal.
In January, the military was criticized internationally for handing out sentences of between eight and 10 months to three soldiers who had tortured two Papuan men, in an act caught on video and posted to YouTube.
The video showed the soldiers applying a burning stick to the genitals of an unarmed man and threatening another man with a knife, while they interrogated both about the location of a weapons cache.
Source: The Jakarta Globe