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Indonesian military confirms authenticity of torture video, detains 13 of its own

Sydney Morning Herald - March 25, 2024

Zach Hope and Karuni Rompies – The Indonesian military has detained 13 of its own after disturbing videos surfaced of a group beating and slashing a young Papuan trembling in a barrel of bloodied water.

One of the videos showed the mob making deep cuts into the upper body of Defianus Kogoya while discussing how easily the blade peeled his skin. Another captured them punching and kicking him in the face.

Defianus appeared to have his hands restrained behind his back underneath the level of the water, which had turned pink.

One of the men was wearing a T-shirt printed with the number "300", an apparent reference to his battalion. The footage, seen by this masthead, is too distressing to publish.

In a disturbing turn, authorities on Monday revealed another arrested Papuan, a man they identified as Warinus Kogoya, died when he supposedly jumped from a moving vehicle while restrained and hit his head on a rock.

The incidents happened in Gome in Papua's Puncak regency on February 3.

There were conflicting reports about the fate of Defianus. The military said he was alive and safe with his family. A human rights source, however, believed he had died from his injuries.

A military official earlier said his "body" had been returned to his family. The confusion may stem from Defianus and Warinus sharing the same last name.

The Indonesian military said that it investigated the torture videos and confirmed that they were authentic. Forty-two soldiers were investigated and 13 detained. This number was five more than announced earlier this week.

"We will investigate it thoroughly," said Papua military commander, Major General Izak Pangemanan, referring to Defianus' torture. "Nobody should escape – those who were involved will be punished in accordance with the existing laws."

The military leadership at Monday afternoon's press conference said that their soldiers had earlier received intelligence about planned arson at a health clinic.

According to the military's account, soldiers and police trying to secure the clinic were fired at, bringing about the arrests of three Papuans.

Pangemanan said Warinus, alleged to be one of the shooters and a "fugitive of Puncak police", jumped out of the car on the way to the police station.

"Perhaps due to imbalance, he fell and his head hit a stone," Pangemanan said. "He died on the way to the community health centre."

Defianus had admitted to previous violence – including the wounding of a soldier – and the arson plot, the generals said. As such, their members became "emotional".

Jules Ongge from the Papuan Human Rights Advocacy Association, said soldiers had been known to use torture to produce confessions.

Indonesia does not allow foreign media into Papua, making it difficult to independently verify and document this and other incidents.

Exiled West Papua pro-independence leader Benny Wenda said they were not uncommon. Also last month, he said, Indonesian soldiers tortured two 15-year-old boys.

"Though it is extreme and shocking, this video merely exposes how Indonesia behaves every day in my country," Wenda said.

"How many victims go unnoticed by the world? How many incidents are not captured on film?

"There is an urgent need for states to take more serious action on human rights in West Papua."

The independence movement in Papua, which borders Papua New Guinea, has been active since the early 1960s.

"We are grateful that more than 100 countries have called for a visit by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights," Wenda said.

"But Indonesia clearly has no intention of honouring their promise, so more must be done."

In Jakarta last month, Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles re-affirmed Australia's position of not supporting Papuan independence.

Marles was visiting defence minister and now president-elect Prabowo Subianto, an ex-general accused of historical human rights abuses in Papua and elsewhere.

In February last year, armed rebels in Papua kidnapped New Zealand pilot Phillip Mehrtens and have attempted to use him as leverage in getting Indonesia to the bargaining table.

Wenda has previously called for Mehrtens' release.

Source: https://www.smh.com.au/world/asia/indonesian-military-confirms-authenticity-of-torture-video-detains-13-of-its-own-20240325-p5ff60.htm