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Video of Indonesian Soldiers Taunting Wounded Papuan Sparks Criticism

  • Brian Padden

Human rights organizations say a video of Indonesian soldiers taunting a wounded Papuan man in their custody reflects the military's callous attitude towards human rights.

A video circulating on the Internet allegedly shows Indonesian soldiers taunting a severely injured prisoner in the Papua province of Eastern Indonesia. At one point in the video, the wounded man, identified as independence activist Yawen Wayeni, weakly raises his arm and says "Papua, freedom."

One of the soldiers then sharply replies, "You all are never going to get freedom."

The video is reportedly a year old, but Phil Robertson with Human Rights Watch says it accurately portrays the callous nature of Indonesian security forces in Papua.

"What is particularly striking is the almost nonchalance of the soldiers as they are around him talking to him, as he is sitting there and basically bleeding to death on the ground," Robertson said. "The total disinterest of the security forces, the long delay in actually getting some medical assistance for him, all reflects a little bit of what we have seen historically, the impunity to abuse human rights in Papua by the security forces."

The director general at Indonesia's Ministry for Law and Human Rights could not be reached for comment.

Police reportedly have said Wayeni was apprehended for allegedly vandalizing buildings and vehicles, and was shot while resisting arrest and that he died on the way to the hospital.

An independence movement and low-level insurgency have been ongoing in Papua since the former Dutch colony was integrated into Indonesia nearly 50 years ago. An estimated 100,000 people have been killed in the conflict. Access to the province for foreign journalists, human-rights workers and academics is restricted, making it difficult to verify claims of abuse.

The United States recently announced the resumption of cooperation with Indonesian security forces, citing great progress in the development of democracy since the fall of General Suharto, who ruled from 1967 to 1998. The U.S. Secretary of Defense said advancing human rights would be one of the main areas of military cooperation.

Robertson says the video shows an institutional disregard for human rights that will not be corrected by training alone.

"What it shows is that the security forces in Indonesia, particularly the ones that operate in Papua do as they like, when they like, and I would challenge any organization, any government to figure out how they are going to train soldiers who display that kind disinterest in the abuse of human rights," Robertson said.

He says independent investigations and the prosecution of those involved in abuses are needed to reform the system.

The central government, which granted Papua special autonomy in 2001, has denied all charges of abuse.

The International Crisis Group also released a report saying renewed political negotiations are needed to prevent the situation in Papua from further deteriorating.