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Outrage over Indonesian army torture in Papua

Catholic prelate calls perpetrators of a brutal crime caught on video as ‘ungodly, inhumane’
A video grab of Indonesian military personnel torturing a Papuan man.

A video grab of Indonesian military personnel torturing a Papuan man. (Photo supplied)

Published: March 25, 2024 11:40 AM GMT
Updated: March 26, 2024 04:26 AM GMT

Catholics in Indonesia have condemned the brutal torture of a Papuan man by military personnel, with a bishop calling the perpetrators “ungodly and inhumane people.”

In a video circulating on social media since last week, the soldiers are seen surrounding a Papuan man with his hands tied behind his back, standing in a barrel filled with water. The soldiers kick and slash him with knives while hurling curses.

Media reports said the incident occurred at a military post in Puncak Regency, Papua Province. The military detained eight soldiers on March 25 amid outrage from various groups, including Christians.

“This dishonorable act is not in accordance with the teachings of any religion. I deeply regret that this action could occur. This is very contrary to the teachings of the Christian faith,” Bishop Yanuarius Theofilus Matopai You of Jayapura said in a statement.

He sought maximum punishment for the perpetrators saying, “It is the act of those who have absolutely no conscience” and considered the victim “to be the same as animals or lower than animals.”

The Archdiocese of Jakarta also called for a thorough investigation and justice for the victim and his family.

In a statement, Father Adi Prasojo, secretary general of the archdiocese, expressed grave concern over peace and security in parts of Papua.

Stefanus Gusma, head of the Catholic Youth Organization said: “Peace and security in the Papua region must be a priority and concern for the state.”

He asked members of the organization’s Papua task force “to get involved in advocating and organizing networks to resolve this issue,” Gusma told UCA News.

Ronald Rischard, head of the Papua bureau of the Union of Churches in Indonesia, a Protestant organization, stressed "transparent law enforcement to prevent this kind of action from occurring in the future."

Lieutenant Colonel (Inf) Candra Kurniawan, a military spokesperson in Papua, said on March 25 that video identification results pointed to involvement of soldiers in acts of violence.

“The military commander does not tolerate any form of violation of the law,” he said adding that “violators will be prosecuted.”

Usman Hamid, executive director of Amnesty International Indonesia, termed the incident as “cruel torture.”

“This is serious torture and contains strong racism,” he said. “There must be a sharp reflection on the deployment of security forces in the Land of Papua which has so far resulted in casualties [of] both native Papuans and non-Papuans, including the security forces themselves.”

For decades the easternmost region of Indonesia has witnessed deadly conflicts between the military and pro-independence armed groups.

According to a report by Jakarta-based Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence, in 2023 there were 49 incidents of violence against civilians, including shootings, abuse, arbitrary arrests, intimidation and torture, which left 41 dead and 67 injured.

Indonesian government continues to deploy troops to Papua citing violence by West Papua National Liberation Army.

Democratic Alliance for Papua reported presence of some 10,250 army soldiers and 1,416 police members from outside the region by the end of 2023.

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