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Indonesian military confirms authenticity of torture video, detains eight

Sydney Morning Herald - March 25, 2024

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

Human rights groups on Monday were attempting to confirm reports from locals that the victim later died.

One video shows the mob slashing deep cuts into the victim's upper back while discussing how easily the blade peels his skin. In another, he is being punched and kicked in the face as the men yell at him to lift his face.

The victim, said to be a teenager, was unable to defend himself and seemed to have his hands restrained behind his back underneath the level of the water. His blood appeared to have turned the water pink.

One of the men is 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.

The Indonesian military said it investigated the videos and confirmed they were authentic.

"The commander does not tolerate any legal violation of whatever kind," said Lieutenant-Colonel Candra Kurniawan, a spokesman for XVII/Cendrawasih command, which covers four Papua provinces.

"All who carried out legal violations must be processed, steps to make Papua peaceful will be carried out continuously.

"The military commander always emphasises avoiding bloodshed in Papua." He said the preliminary investigation was ongoing.

The precise date and location of the incident remained unclear, but it was believed to have been in a highlands' region called Puncak. The same regency was the scene of Indonesian military operations early last month.

"Though it is extreme and shocking, this video merely exposes how Indonesia behaves every day in my country," exiled West Papua pro-independence leader Benny 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."

Wenda said a member of the West Papua National Liberation Army was killed the highlands last month and two minors were tortured.

Indonesia does not allow foreign media into Papua, making attempts to independently verify and document the many alleged atrocities almost impossible.

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 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-eight-20240325-p5ff60.htm