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West Papuan man filmed being bound and tortured in water-filled barrel allegedly by Indonesian soldiers

The Guardian - March 25, 2024

Ben Doherty – Footage of a West Papuan man, bound in a water-filled barrel and being beaten and cut with knives, allegedly by Indonesian soldiers, has reanimated demands for international intervention in the contested province.

Two videos of the man being tortured are alleged to have been filmed in early February this year, during a military raid in the Omukia and Gome districts in Puncak regency, in the Central Papua province.

The footage – which the Guardian has seen but chosen not to republish – shows the man sitting in a 44-gallon barrel that is filled with bloodied water.

In one video he is repeatedly punched, elbowed, hit with sticks and kicked as he sits in the barrel. Blood can be seen running from numerous injuries on his face and head.

In another, a knife is repeatedly run over his back – which is already bleeding – while a hand holds his head. He can be seen to be bleeding from his ear and head, and he is shivering.

The man, with his arms behind his back, does not speak nor resist during the assaults. The assailants are dressed in civilian clothes, however, at least one is wearing camouflage pants that match the uniform of the Indonesian military, the TNI.

The executive president of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP), Menase Tabuni, condemned the assaults on civilians. "This kind of action violates human values. No law can condone heinous acts of torture as seen in the two video clips."

Tabuni said the UN high commissioner for human rights should "immediately form an investigation team to carry out investigations into human rights violations and threats of genocide against the Papuan people".

A visit by the UN high commissioner for human rights to West Papua was negotiated in 2018 – and has since been publicly supported by more than 100 countries – but has not materialised.

Exiled West Papuan leader Benny Wenda, the president of ULMWP, said while the videos were "extreme and shocking", they "merely expose how Indonesia behaves every day in my country".

"Torture is such a widespread military practice that it has been described as a 'mode of governance' in West Papua," he said. "I ask everyone who watches the video to remember that West Papua is a closed society, cut off from the world by a 60-year media ban imposed by Indonesia's military occupation.

"How many victims go unnoticed by the world? How many incidents are not captured on film? Every week we hear word of another murder, massacre, or tortured civilian."

Rumadi Ahmad, a deputy chief of the Indonesian presidential staff, said in a statement that the Indonesian government was committed to bringing development and security to Papua, but those efforts would be undermined if military personnel committed acts of violence and torture.

"While we hold a strong hope that our soldiers are not involved in such reprehensible acts, if proven true, the individuals responsible must be held accountable in accordance with the applicable rules and regulations," Rumadi said.

"If the video is proven to be true, the actions by a few irresponsible individuals could be very disruptive to the development that has been planned and implemented so well," Rumadi said.

Col Gusti Nyoman Suriastawa, a military spokesman in Papua, told BenarNews the video was being investigated. "We are verifying its authenticity... if it is genuine, we need to determine where and when it occurred."

The four contested Indonesian provinces on the island of Papua (also referred to as New Guinea island) are referred to collectively as West Papua.

Indonesia has controlled the former Dutch colony since invading in 1963. It formalised its annexation through the controversial UN approved "Act of Free Choice" in 1969, widely regarded as a sham referendum, in which just over 1,000 selected Papuans were forced – some threatened with violence – to vote in support of Indonesian rule.

In the decades since, security forces have been accused of severe human rights violations, with an estimated 500,000 Papuans killed. A Guardian investigation last year detailed consistent reports of torture and murder of civilians, including children, by military officials.

The Indonesian state has always maintained that the West Papuan provinces are an indivisible part of the Republic of Indonesia.

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2024/mar/25/west-papuan-man-footage-torture-water-allegedly-indonesi