(New York) - The Indonesian government should use the newly available video testimony of a torture victim to mount a thorough, impartial, and transparent investigation into the episode, Human Rights Watch said today. The torture of Tunaliwor Kiwo, a Papuan farmer, and his neighbor, was recorded with a mobile phone on May 30, 2010, and the video came to light in October. Kiwo recounted the details of his torture in videotaped testimony only made public in recent days.
Soldiers arrested Kiwo and Telangga Gire on May 30 in Papua's Puncak Jaya regency. In a 10-minute video of the torture session, soldiers are seen kicking Kiwo's face and chest, burning his face with a cigarette, applying burning wood to his penis, and placing a knife to Gire's neck. In the newly available videotaped testimony, Kiwo describes that torture and details other forms of torture he suffered for two more days before he escaped from the soldiers on June 2. Soldiers also tortured Gire, who was finally released after interventions by his wife and mother. The government has promised to investigate, but claims it cannot identify the perpetrators.
"Once again, the authorities are sitting on their hands rather than fulfilling their obligations and proactively identifying and prosecuting the soldiers responsible," said Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch's Asia division. "Kiwo has shown tremendous bravery in coming forward - he deserves justice and protection from retaliation, not another half-hearted army investigation and cover-up."
Indonesia is a party in the United Nations Convention Against Torture and has strict obligations to investigate and prosecute promptly all incidents of torture and to ensure that victims and witnesses are protected against all ill-treatment or intimidation as a consequence of filing a complaint or giving evidence.
Kiwo said in his testimony that he and Gire had been riding a motorcycle from their hometown, Tingginambut, to Mulia, the capital of Puncak Jaya, when soldiers stopped them at a military checkpoint in Kwanggok Nalime, Yogorini. Kiwo said that soldiers seized and hit them, bound their arms with rope, dragged them to the back of the army post, and tied their feet with barbed wire. He said the soldiers tortured him for three days, beating him with their hands and sticks, crushing his toes with pliers, suffocating him with plastic bags, burning his genitals and other body parts, cutting his face and head and smearing the wounds with chilies, and using other forms of abuse.
Kiwo's videotaped testimony with subtitles in English and Indonesian can be viewed on the Engage Media website.
"The Indonesian government at the highest levels should guarantee that Tunaliwor Kiwo and Telangga Gire will be protected from retaliation and considered witnesses to crimes," Robertson said. "The testimony of these two men will be critically important in prosecuting the soldiers who tortured them, so protecting them needs to be a top priority."
The October media coverage of the May 30 torture video prompted President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to hold a limited cabinet meeting on October 22, after which the coordinating security minister, Marshall Djoko Suyanto, admitted that the video showed Indonesian soldiers torturing Papuan villagers. Yudhoyono reportedly ordered the military to investigate immediately, but the government has provided no information about the progress of the investigation.
The National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) estimates that as many as 50 civilians have been killed in the area since the Indonesian military and police began military operations there last year.
Representatives of the Papuan Customary Council provided the video of Kiwo's testimony to the National Commission on Human Rights on November 5. The Commission set up a team to investigate the torture episode as well as other human rights abuses alleged to have occurred in Puncak Jaya. The Commission has scheduled a trip to Papua to investigate further, though an earlier visit in late October to investigate the Kiwo-Gire torture video was frustrated by a lack of access and cooperation from military and local officials.
Unexpectedly, Maj. Gen. Hotma Marbun, the Indonesian military commander in Papua, was removed from his post on November 12. It was announced as a "routine transfer" even though Marbun had only been in Papua since January. Human Rights Watch has no information indicating that this transfer is punitive or connected in any way with the torture video. His replacement, Brig. Gen. Erfi Triassunu, should ensure that investigations in the torture case are carried out thoroughly and impartially, and that army officials under his command fully cooperate, Human Rights Watch said.
"Changing military commanders will not root out impunity," Robertson said. "The victims deserve justice. The Indonesian military and police in Papua should fully cooperate with investigators from the National Commission on Human Rights."
Appendix: Confusion over two different torture videos from Papua
March 17, 2010 video
On November 5, 2010, the Jayapura military tribunal opened the trial against Master Pvt. Sahminan Husain Lubis, Pvt. Second Class Joko Sulistiono, Pvt. Second Class Di Purwanto, and their commander Second Lt. Cosmos N. of the Kodam Cenderawasih’s 753 battalion on the charge of "disobeying orders." Cosmos led a 12-person unit to man a checkpoint in Kolome village, Illu district, Puncak Jaya. Many international and national reporters, and some Indonesian officials, mistakenly believed the trial was to focus on the torture of Kiwo-Gire as captured in the video of May 30, 2010.
During the trial, it became clear that the case involved a different incident of torture also caught on video but filmed on March 17, 2010. In the proceedings, the soldiers admitted the torture depicted in the video. According to Cosmos, the incident happened when his team conducted a routine patrol. He said he received intelligence information suggesting that there was an AK-47 and Mauser weapons stockpile in Gurage village.
The team entered the village and separated the men and women. One by one, they questioned all the men, and when they did not receive responses they considered acceptable, the soldiers began kicking and punching the villagers. Second Pvt. Ishak used a Nokia N-70 mobile phone to record the interrogations and beatings. He told the court that Cosmos had ordered him to do so.
Observers at the trial reported to Human Rights Watch that a judge, Lt. Col. CHK Adil Karo Karo, told Ishak, "You're stupid. Knowing how sensitive it was, why did you keep recording it anyway?" It was a quick trial with only two sessions for hearings and not a single external witness was summoned by the court. On November 12, the Jayapura military tribunal found Cosmos and the three privates guilty of "disobeying orders." Cosmos was sentenced to seven months. The three privates were sentenced to five months each.
May 30, 2010 video
The May 30, 2010 video showed a number of soldiers with two bound Papuan men lying on a dirt road. An electronic analysis of the video showed that it was taken at 1:30 p.m. A Puncak Jaya-based official of the Papuan Customary Council reported in August 2010 that two men had been tortured on the afternoon of May 30: Tunaliwor Kiwo and Telangga Gire. Moribnak had managed to interview Gire in July. Moribnak wrote that the torture had probably taken place in Yogorini village, Tingginambut district, Puncak Jaya regency. It allegedly involved members of Kostrad 753rd battalion. Given government restrictions on international organizations entering these areas, Human Rights Watch has not been able to independently confirm the actual location where the torture took place or the identity of the unit of the soldiers.
Kiwo escaped from the soldiers on June 2, and the soldiers released Gire after his mother and his wife had pleaded for his life.
Human Rights Watch issued a statement on October 20, calling on the Indonesian government to investigate the incident seriously.