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Video Reveals New Evidence of Torture by Indonesia Military

  • Angela Dewan

A new video of a torture victim's testimony adds to allegations of abuse by Indonesian troops in the restive region of Papua. Human rights activists say that President Obama, who visits next week, should press Indonesia to crack down on rights abuses.

Five Indonesian soldiers faced a military court in the region of Papua on Friday morning for abuse revealed in a video posted on-line last month.

New details of the torture, which included genital clamping and suffocation, emerged Thursday night in a video first broadcast by Al-Jazeera.

Internet users around the world watched Tunaliwor Kiwo screaming in agony as soldiers branded his penis with a burning stick. In the video released Thursday, he recounts two days of torture by the soldiers.

According to transcript provided by the filmmaker, Kiwo says the soldiers went into their post to get pliers to clamp his toes. They pulled at his toenails so hard until they broke or came off, until he was hysterical.

Kiwo says police never asked him to testify in the trial of the five men accused of torturing him.

Indonesia's military has a history of human rights abuses in Papua, where a separatist movement has fought a low-level insurgency for nearly 40 years.

But in the decade since Indonesia became a democracy, rights advocates and the government say there has been some improvement.

But the National Commission on Human Rights has recorded around 50 deaths as a result of the conflict in the region in recent months.

In a break from tradition, the Indonesian military and top state officials admitted the Kiwo case within days of the initial video's posting, a sign world leaders have taken as progress in human rights.

But human rights activists say the military court is incapable of delivering a fair and transparent trial. They say the soldiers should face a human rights court, or be investigated by an independent team.

Presidential spokesman Teuku Faisasyah, however, says he thinks justice will be served.

"We'll see how the case evolves but we fully have confidence in the independence of the court system, even in the military court," he said.

Andreas Harsono, a consultant with Human Rights Watch, sees the government's action on the case as a hollow attempt to please President Barack Obama, who arrives on Tuesday. The United States cooperates with and funds a special unit in the military and a police unit in counterterrorism efforts.

"Human rights abuses in Indonesia, the worst took place when the U.S. government was engaging the TNI [Indonesian military]. When engagement is less, or at the minimum, human rights abuses are much, much lower," said Harsono.

He says, however, he hopes that Mr. Obama brings the issue up when he meets with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

The government has rejected pressure from the United States and other nations to address the issue outside the military court system.

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