The PhD thesis of Dr. Budi Hernawan concludes “that torture has been deployed strategically by the Indonesian state in Papua as a mode of governance…with almost complete impunity.”
Some are tortured after being arbitrarily detained – TAPOL documented 28 political arrests involving torture in 2012 – while other cases have taken place near villages.
Take the example of Yawan Wayeni, a tribal leader and former political prisoner, whose killing in 2009 was filmed and leaked online the following year. AHRC reports that Indonesian Police (Brimob) shot Wayeni in the leg, before plunging a bayonet into his belly, spilling out his bowels. He utters the word “independence,” while slowly dying in the jungle, to which a police officer responds, ‘‘You Papuans are so stupid, you are savages.’’ In an interview with Aljazeera the police chief dealing with the case, Imam Setiawan, said that his men did not violate Wayeni’s human rights and had to stop him from talking about independence and tell him, ‘’You will never get your independence. We are the unified state of Indonesia. Don’t ever dream of your freedom.’’Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.
This is not the only torture video to be leaked.
In October 2010, a video of Indonesian military personnel torturing two West Papuan men, who human rights group describe as simple farmers, surfaced online. They are accused of having information about weapons caches. One man, Tunaliwor Kiwo, is kicked in the face and chest, his genitals seared with a burning stick. The other, Telangga Gire, is threatened with a knife, the blade pushed against his throat and dragged across his face. Kiwo later recounts in a recorded testimony, that he escaped on the third day of the ordeal, and describes how he was also suffocated with plastic bags, had his toes crushed with pliers, and chillies smeared in his burns and cuts.
In January 2011, three soldiers involved in the abuse were sentenced to terms of eight to 10 months for “not following orders.” Despite Indonesia ratifying the UN Convention Against Torture in 1999, the military criminal code does not recognize torture as a punishable crime. In a speech to military and police forces just days before the sentences were handed out, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono dismissed the case as a “minor incident” and claimed that “no gross violations” of human rights have happened since he took office in 2004.
It’s true, he was not in power when the Biak Massacre took place in 1998, in which scores of peaceful demonstrators allegedly shot at, tortured, raped and mutilated, survivors loaded onto navy ships and dumped at sea to drown, their bodies later washing up on shore. Crimes against humanity, for which, according to the findings of a citizens’ tribunal held in Sydney last month, none of the perpetrators have been held accountable.
And it’s correct that Yudhoyono was not leader in 2003 when, Amnesty International reports, nine civilians were killed, 38 tortured and 15 arbitrarily arrested during a series of police raids in Wamena, which displaced thousands of villagers, dozens later dying from hunger and exhaustion.
And in June 2012, when political leader, Mako Tabuni “was gunned down by police in broad daylight” in a killing that allegedly involved Densus 88 (aka Detachment 88) – a counter-terrorism unit funded and trained by Australia and the U.S. following the Bali bombings. Tabuni was deputy chairperson of the National Committee for West Papua (KNPB), a non-violent organization, campaigning for a referendum.
A TAPOL report notes that of 20 people charged under the treason law (Article 106) in 2012, their alleged activities ranged from carrying documents associated with KNPB, or guerrilla group OPM, to organizing a celebration of the UN Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, to raising the Morning Star flag, to suspected involvement in the National Liberation Army (TPN).
Paul Barber, Coordinator of TAPOL, commented that, ‘’The security approach is still in full swing.’’
“Protests should be welcomed as a sign of a flourishing if noisy democracy, but security forces feel threatened and crack down. This approach is trapping Papua in a futile cycle of repression and fear.”
According to figures by Papuans Behind Bars, the number of political arrests in November last year rose by 165 percent from the same period in 2012. A November report puts the total number of arrests in 2013 (up to that time) at 537 and the number of political prisoners at 71. Filep Karma is one of these prisoners of conscience, serving a 15-year sentence for raising the Morning Star flag.
Former head of Densus 88, Tito Karnavian, was appointed as Papua Chief of Police in late 2012 – a move that corresponded with a sharp increase in the number of political arrests and a spike in reports of abuse and torture among detainees.
Barber explains that activists and peaceful protestors are routinely subjected to surveillance, threats, harassment and beatings, and are sometimes killed or disappeared. “Speaking out against injustice in Papua is extremely risky. At best you may lose your dignity, at worst you will lose your liberty, your mind or even your life.”
Foreign journalists and international non-government organizations are barred from accessing West Papua. In recent years, the International Committee of the Red Cross has been expelled and Peace Brigades International forced to close its offices, when restrictions made carrying out work impossible. Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International are also routinely denied visas. Fortunately, the spread of mobile phones is making it harder for human rights abuses to go unnoticed.