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Indonesia to Investigate Military Involvement in Alleged Torture Video


A video released on the Internet implicates the Indonesian military in the torture of indigenous Papuans. International human rights groups have called for an investigation into what they say is the clearest evidence yet of abuses occurring in the remote province. Rights groups condemn the violence inflicted on two men who appear to be under interrogation in the video.

In the video, obtained by the Asian Human Rights Commission in Hong Kong, unidentified men pin the Papuans to the ground, holding a knife to the neck of one and burning the genitals of the other. They attempt to coerce the two to give information about weapons belonging to a group of Papuan separatists. Despite the abuse, the men say they have no ties to the Free Papua Movement.

Human rights groups say the interrogators are from the Indonesian military, but that can not be independently confirmed.

The video's data indicates it was taken with a mobile phone on May 30. Human Rights Watch thinks the victims are civilians from Puncak Jaya, in the central highlands of Papua. They say one man has been released, but the other's whereabouts are unknown.

There have been several claims of abuses in Indonesia's westernmost province. Human rights groups say this video is solid evidence of abuse.

Wong Kai Shing, executive director of the Asian Human Right Commission, says the group released the video to raise concerns with military operations that have resulted in arbitrary arrests, intimidation and torture.

"What is reflected in this incident and other cases we put forward shows what is happening, and people on the ground - indigenous Papuans - are constantly under threat, so I think that should be the focus of the issues," said Wong.

Papua is home to a low-level separatist insurgency that has become more violent in recent months. Papuans say they feel threatened by an influx of outsiders, and that their calls for autonomy have gone unanswered.

Indonesian lawmakers say the government should investigate the video's authenticity and take legal action if the military is involved.

Presidential assistant Teuku Faizasyah says while no one is immune from the law, the government does not knowingly engage in acts of torture.

"There is no systematic effort by the government to conduct such inhuman activities," said Teuku. "In fact the military is provided with sufficient knowledge about humanitarian law and how they treat, I could not call it combatants, but those who are raising arms."

The Asian Human Rights Commission's Wong Kai Shing approves of the government's promise to investigate, but says it must be done in an independent and impartial way.

Human Rights Watch says the military is seldom disciplined for unnecessary use of force, and that abuse will continue as long as the government limits access to Papua by journalists and aid organizations.

The Asian Human Rights Commission posted the graphic video on YouTube over the weekend, but the Internet site later removed the clip because of its disturbing scenes.

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