Scoop: 79th West Papua Report

Published: Wed 3 Nov 2010 11:52 AM
West Papua Report November 2010*
This is the 79th in a series of monthly reports that focus on developments affecting Papuans. This series is produced by the non-profit West Papua Advocacy Team (WPAT) drawing on media accounts, other NGO assessments, and analysis and reporting from sources within West Papua. This report is co-published with the East Timor and Indonesia /Action/ Network (ETAN) Back issues are posted online at
*Summary: A video of Indonesian security forces torturing Papuan civilians again revealed the routine violence employed by these forces to terrorize the Papuan people. Calls for a genuinely independent and credible investigation of the incidents appear to be in vain as the Indonesian Government has stated that the security forces will investigate themselves. Within days of the video's release a massive cyber attack took down many of the international NGO websites which had posted the torture video footage. Analysts assessed that the cyber attack's sophistication and coordination indicated that it was the work of a govern. While international NGO's condemned the torture unequivocally and demanded a credible investigation of the incidents, the U.S. sought to downplay the matter, commending the Indonesian security forces for acknowledging that their personnel were implicated. In a separate incident, video revealed that Indonesian security forces burned a Papuan village. The passing of Asmara Nababan removes a courageous and articulate human rights advocate from the Indonesian scene. In separate comments WPAT criticizes the U.S. administration for its "limp" response to the evidence of security force torture and for resisting calls to make an end to such abuses, real accountability for their perpetrators, and genuine reform a sine qua non for U.S. military-to-military assistance. WPAT also notes that cyber attack against websites that posted the torture video footage is consistent with the Indonesian Government's long-standing efforts to prevent international monitoring of developments in West Papua.
* Torture, A Routine Tactic for Security Forces in West Papua * Papuan Officials Demand and End to Security Force Violence Against Papuan Civilians * Calls for Withdrawal of Security Forces in Puncak Jaya * Buchtar Tabuni Speaks from Prison on Need for an International Investigation * Sophisticated Cyber Attack Targets NGO Websites Carrying Indonesian Security Force Torture Video * The US Government's Inadequate Response to Indonesian Security Force Atrocities * Indonesian Security Forces Incinerate Papuan Village * Human Rights Champion Passes
*Torture, A Routine Tactic for Security Forces in West Papua * For the second time in recent months video footage of torture by Indonesian security forces targeting Papuans has revealed the brutality with which Indonesian security forces oppress Papuans. The latest torture videos clearly depict Indonesian security forces applying a burning ember to one man's genitals and suffocating him while a second man had a knife held to his throat and face. This video footage follows footage this summer of a Papuan who was knifed while in custody. That video showed his agonizing final minutes during which he was taunted by the Indonesian security forces who dealt him his fatal wound. (See Torture Video Reveals Indonesia "Abu Ghraib on Eve of Obama Visit" for WPAT statement on this latest footage.)
The October 23 Jakarta Post reports that Djoko Suyanto, Coordinating minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs, said that "the perpetrators are indeed military soldiers." In response to calls from the U.S. and other governments, the Yudhoyono administration has launched an investigation into the incident, though it has apparently ignored calls from Indonesian and international NGOs (such as Imparsial and Amnesty International ) to include the Indonesian National Commission for Human Rights (Komnas Ham) in that investigation. Some Papuans have called for an international investigation (see below).
Indonesian Defense Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro stated that the perpetrators would be brought before a military tribunal. Military tribunals routinely mete out light sentences for security force crimes committed against civilians.
WPAT Comment: /Indonesian security forces are recipient of significant U.S. and other international training and other assistance. The Obama administration recently expanded that long-standing assistance , extending it to Indonesia's notorious special forces (Kopassus) which has a particularly notorious record in West Papua (e.g., see Human Rights Watch June 2009 report, / What Did I Do Wrong /). As in previous egregious instances of security force abuse the U.S. government called for an investigation and punishment for those responsible. Such a call, while appropriate, fails to address the pattern of such abuses - and unaccountability - over many decades. the U.S. government complicit in the ongoing abuse by refusing to make cessation of Indonesian security force human rights violations and meaningful accountability for past and ongoing violations a sine qua non for its continued support. For decades the U.S. government provided military aid and diplomatic cover to the Suharto dictatorship's brutal repression in East Timor. The U.S. Government's feckless response to years of human rights atrocities in West Papua is reminiscent of Washington's collusion in the repression of East Timor.
/*Papuan Officials Demand and End to Security Force Violence Against Papuan Civilians * In the wake of clear evidence of security force torture, the destruction of Bigiragi village, and extrajudicial killings, three party groups in the Papuan legislative assembly (DPRP) charged security forces based in Papua with behaving very arrogantly. Speaking on behalf of the groups two of the lawmakers on October 26 called on the government to take action to end such abuses .
Papua legislative members Yan Mandenas and Ruben Magai observed that violence against Papuan civilians continued to be problem "due to light punishments given to perpetrators, sending the message that taking the life of a civilian could be a normal matter." The legislators noted that since Papua's annexation by Indonesia "cases of human rights violation have continued to increase and none of them has been legally resolved."
Mandanas said that the three party groups would urge the DPRP to set up a special team to investigate the situation, adding that "If there are no efforts by the army chief and the chief of police to solve the problems, we will call for them both to be dismissed.
*Calls for Withdrawal of Security Forces in Puncak Jaya
*/Bintang Papua /reported on October 29 that officials from the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) are calling for the withdrawal of security forces from parts of the Puncak Jaya area to enable investigations of recent human rights atrocities to proceed.
Mathius Murib, deputy head of the Papua branch of Komnas HAM, explained that following worldwide circulation of the torture video, the Commission had established a special team and undertook "internal co-ordination" in Jakarta as well as in Jayapura. He added that a representative of the central Komnas HAM and a team of six persons have just returned from Jayapura. Their next step, he explained, would be to co-ordinate with the TNI and police. That coordination would entail a temporary withdrawal of forces specifically from the Tingginambut area of Puncak Jaya. Murib explained, "if the security forces remain in the area, it will not be possible for Komnas HAM to conduct any investigations there."
Amnesty International among others called for a Komnas HAM investigation of the recent atrocities. Many have noted that any investigation conducted by the security forces would lack credibility.
*Buchtar Tabuni Speaks from Prison on Need for an International Investigation * In response to security force violations of human rights in the Puncak Jaya area, the National Committee of West Papua (KNPB) called on the government to allow international access to the region to facilitate an investigation by an "independent team." KNPB Chairman, Buchtar Tabuni, who is in prison under a 'treason' conviction, addressed a large crowd in Senatani through a spokesperson on October 28.
A summary of his statement , reported in Bintang Papua on October 29 and translated by TAPOL follows:
The people of West Papua as represented by the National Committee of West Papua (KNPB) along with other elements in society firmly reject an option suggested by the deputy chair of the Papuan legislative assembly - DPRP - to set up a fact-finding investigation team to gather information about the violence recently experienced by Papuan people in Tingginambut, Puncak Jaya.
We strongly reject any one-sided team that is set up by TNI/Polri, the DPRP, the central government or the Komnas HAM, but we call on the TNI/Polri and the government to allow international access for an independent team to come to Puncak Jaya and Jakarta, and allow access to Papua.
There must be an independent team and we reject any investigation set up by the security forces. Moreover the security forces must be withdrawn from Puncak Jaya, the security approach must end and a referendum must be held in order to reach a peaceful solution.
For many years and right up to the present, the Papuan people have been tortured, robbed and killed by the TNI/Polri. Ever since Papua was under control, in the interests of Indonesia and the USA, Papuans have been treated like animals; the video was concrete evidence of the many other cases happening in West Papua. All these cases of torture in Puncak Jaya, whether they have been filmed or not, are clearly the work of the TNI/Polri.
Since the military operations began in Tingginambut, hundreds of people had been tortured and murdered, and their homes, gardens and livestock had been torched. Thousands have fled to the forests and had died of starvation. On 15 September 2010, Brimob shot dead three inhabitants of Manokwari but the perpetrator had been incarcerated for only 14 days on 4 October 2010.
We Papuans are being treated like animals on our own land, and sooner or later, we will be exterminated. This is why we call on Indonesia to end the military operations and hold a referendum in order to solve the problem peacefully.
*Sophisticated Cyber Attack Targets NGO Websites Carrying Indonesian Security Force Torture Video * On October 27-28, a cyber attack was launched against several international NGO websites that had posted video footage revealing Indonesian security forces torturing Papuans (see above). The massive cyber attack shut down a number of the websites for extended periods. Experts analyzing the worldwide attack assessed that the coordination and sophistication of the effort required resources available only to a government or government agency. It would be unlikely for a single hacker or a small group of hackers to conduct such an operation.
WPAT Comment: /This cyber attack, almost certainly the work of Indonesian security and/or intelligence agencies, is consistent with long-standing Indonesian Government policy and practice of precluding any international monitoring of developments in West Papua. / *The US Government's Inadequate Response to Indonesian Security Force Atrocities
*The Obama Administration, rather than simply condemning the torture of Papuans by Indonesian security personnel revealed in the infamous footage which so shocked the international community, has suggested a specious silver lining. US officials, media reports noted, were "quick to praise Indonesia for its upfront approach" in acknowledging the role of security forces in the torture. Media also reported U.S. officials as saying the undeniable evidence of security force employment of torture against civilians "would not affect military ties, which form one component of a comprehensive partnership agreement President Barack Obama is to sign in Jakarta."
Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defence Bob Scher who visited Jakarta just as the torture video was revealed, inexplicably told the /Straits Times/ // that "'The TNI has made great strides in addressing human rights issues and accountability."
Scher, in full spin mode, contended, "The first part is ensuring they have the right doctrine, they're doing the right training and there's an awareness of human rights issues. I think it has done tremendous work on that."
He continued, "The next part is moving forward and ensuring they understand how they deal with people who abuse human rights. The third piece they need to address is accountability for past behaviour - and that's obviously the harder part." Scher also defended the Obama Administration's decision, announced in July, to resume contact with Indonesia's notorious "special forces" (Kopassus).
WPAT Comment: /The Obama administration's limp response to the undeniable evidence of security force criminal actions (atrocities) revealed in the "torture video" makes clear that like its predecessors the Obama administration is prepared to play the role of apologist for those forces. This U.S. administration, in resuming contact with the Indonesian Special Forces (Kopassus) in particular, demonstrates an even greater willingness than the Bush and Clinton administration to provide diplomatic cover for human rights violations by the security forces in Indonesia. By foregoing use of its military assistance programs as leverage to insist on an end to abuse, and real accountability for past and ongoing criminality in the Indonesian military and police, the Obama Administration is squandering a unique opportunity to secure real reform of these often rogue Indonesian security forces.
/*Indonesian Security Forces Incinerate Papuan Village
* Sources in West Papua report the incineration of a Papuan village named Bigiragi in the West Papuan central highlands (Puncak Jaya). The assault on the village by 16 personnel wearing police uniforms transpired on October 11. The perpetrators destroyed 29 homes. There were no reports of casualties among the Papuans or police who were apparently responsible for the assault. Two villagers treked over a two day period to report the attack to the Papua Customary Council (DAP). They then returned to the village with cameras provided by the officials and have since sent back photo's of the destruction which can be seen at .
This Brimob attack targeting civilians is similar to assaults against villages throughout the Puncak Jaya that have continued for many years. It is not clear whether this assault was in the context of an ongoing "sweep operation" which in the past has driven thousands of civilians into the forests where lack of access to adequate food, shelter and medical attention has led to the deaths of hundreds.
*Human Rights Champion Passes * Asmara Nababan, former Secretary General of the National Human Rights Commission and founder and chairman of the Center for Democracy and Human Rights Studies (Demos), had succumbed to pulmonary cancer at the age of 64 . Nababan was a courageous advocate for the protection of human rights and among other responsibilities served on the National Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights Violations in East Timor (KPP HAM). That body documented the involvement of many senior military and some civilian officials responsible for human rights atrocities in East Timor in 1999. None of those named in the report were ever effectively prosecuted.
Nababan was an early advocate for protection of human rights in West Papua pressing in particular for prosecution of crimes committed against Papuan civilians in 1995 military torture, rape and killing of Papuans. He demonstrated courage in particular by pressing for investigation and prosecution of military personnel guilty of rape of Papuan women and girls. He concluded that the ultimate failure to prosecute any of the well-substantiated rape cases was due to racism.
This issue of West Papua Report is online at

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