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The Indonesian military apologized to “all Papuan people” and detained 13 soldiers from an elite battalion in West Java who had tortured a Papuan man in Gome, Central Papua.

A video still shows Indonesian soldiers seriously mistreating a Papuan man in their custody in Gome, Central Papua, March 2024. ©

A video posted to social media shows three soldiers in army undershirts brutally beating Definus Kogoya, a young Papuan man, who had his hands tied behind him and been placed inside a drum filled with water. The soldiers taunted Kogoya with racist slurs, kicking and hitting him. In another video, a man used a bayonet to cut his back. The water turned red.

The army spokesman, Brig. Gen. Kristomei Sianturi, said the soldiers had “tarnished efforts to handle conflict” in Central Papua, adding that the military police had questioned 42 soldiers of the 300 Infantry Raider Battalion, and identified at least 13 suspects.

General Sianturi alleged that Kogoya was a member of the West Papua National Liberation Army and had been arrested on February 3 with two other Papuan men, Alianus Murib and Warinus Kogoya, after they had allegedly tried to burn down a medical clinic in Gome. He said Warinus Kogoya died when he jumped from a military vehicle after arrest.

Kogoya and Murib were handed over to police custody by the battalion on February 6. The police immediately released the two men as they had found no evidence of arson or other violent acts. Both men needed medical treatment.

On March 21, Benny Wenda, a West Papua leader in exile in the United Kingdom, posted the video, saying, “Torture is such a widespread military practice that it has been described as a ‘mode of governance’ in West Papua.”

Human Rights Watch has documented numerous accounts of torture from West Papua over the past two decades including some that were filmed and later made public. Several soldiers have been prosecuted but received light punishment.

Some Indonesian officials have blamed Papuan militants when confronted with torture allegations.

While there is an ongoing armed conflict in Central Papua – in May 2023, an Indonesian soldier was fatally shot – international law forbids torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of civilians or captured combatants in custody.

To end such abuses, Indonesian authorities should prosecute the alleged perpetrators in civilian courts. The Indonesian military justice system lacks independence, impartiality, and transparency.

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