Anger at Light Sentences for Papua Torture
Banjir Ambarita, Markus Junianto Sihaloho & Nivell Rayda
Indonesia. A military tribunal in Papua that handed light sentences to three soldiers involved in torturing two civilians faced a chorus of anger from activists who called it a gross injustice that they had not been tried for human rights violations.
The court-martial on Monday found the three soldiers guilty on charges of insubordination for failing to inform their superiors that they had detained and tortured the two Papuan civilians, Tunaliwor Kiwo and Telangga Gire, on May 27 last year.
A 10-minute video of the torture taken on a cellphone prompted international outrage when it was posted on YouTube in October. Among the abuses, it showed Tunaliwor being burned on the genitals with a smoldering stick.
“The three were involved in torturing civilians, and also in violating their superiors’ orders,” said the presiding judge, Lt. Col. Adil Karo-Karo.
“The defendants did not report to their commanding officers in connection with the arrests and violence they had committed, therefore violating orders from their direct superiors.”
As commander of a military checkpoint near Gurage village in Puncak Jaya district, where the torture took place, Sgt. Irwan Rizkiyanto should receive the harshest sentence, 10 months in jail, the court said.
First Pvt. Jackson Agu was sentenced to nine months in prison while First Pvt. Thamrin Mahamiri received eight months.
Military prosecutors had sought 12 months in jail for Irwan, 10 months for Jackson and 9 for Thamrin.
Poengky Indarti, executive director of the Indonesian Human Rights Monitor (Imparsial), said the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) should take over the investigation and re-prosecute the men for torture.
“Although this court-martial has concluded, there is still the torture charge and the need to try these soldiers at an independent human rights tribunal,” Poengky told the Jakarta Globe.
“The government and the House of Representatives must amend the law on military tribunals, which has been a major obstacle in prosecuting military officials under civilian law.”
The government ratified the United Nations Convention Against Torture in 1999, but activists say this has remained a paper measure.
The Military Criminal Code and its Code of Conduct so far also do not recognize torture as one of the punishable crimes in court-martials.
Komnas HAM commissioner Ridha Saleh told the Globe the case was one of gross violations of human rights.
The commission had offered the military to use its own findings “but to no avail.”
“There are a lot of human rights violations in Puncak Jaya,” he said.
“We are conducting our own investigations. But whether those investigations will lead to re-prosecution, a recommendation or the formation of a fact-finding team, we don’t know yet.”
Haris Azhar, coordinator of the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras), said that with such a verdict, no one in the military would be impressed.
“The verdict only stresses the need for a real reform of the military,” he said.
Elaine Pearson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia division, highlighted irregularities in the court-martial.
“There were six men depicted in the video but only three were brought to trial,” she told the Globe.
“This is a disappointing outcome. The military dragged their feet in this investigation and showed minimum effort, and it shows that they were just trying to get the international pressure off their back.”
Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Toisutta said the tribunal “is part of measures to fix our institution, to return to a condition where we respect the rules.”
He declined to comment on criticism of the verdicts.