Amnesty International yesterday demanded that Indonesia investigate allegations of torture by security forces in restive Papua Province.
The demand came after a video was posted on YouTube last week apparently showing two Papuan men being tortured during questioning about a weapons cache.
“The release of this video is the latest reminder that torture and other ill-treatment in Indonesia often go unchecked and unpunished,” the human rights group’s Asia-Pacific Deputy Director Donna Guest said in a statement. “We continue to receive regular reports about torture by members of the security forces. However, there are often no independent investigations, and those responsible are rarely brought to account before an independent court.”
Indonesian police and the military have said they would investigate the case in the remote eastern region, where a low-level separatist insurgency has been simmering for decades.
However, Amnesty called for the government to appoint a National Human Rights Commission to lead the investigation and publish the findings while ensuring the safety of investigators, victims, witnesses and their families.
“The authorities must send a clear public message to all members of the security forces in Indonesia, especially in Papua, that torture and other ill-treatment is strictly prohibited at all times and, if it occurs, full criminal investigations will begin,” Guest said.
The human rights group said it also had another video showing a Papuan political activist, reportedly arrested by police in August last year, with severe abdominal injuries receiving no assistance just before his death.
Amnesty said it wrote to police in December last year asking for details about police abuse in the Nabire district of Papua, but has not received a response and is unaware of any “independent and impartial” investigation.
From December 2008 to April last year, police had used “unnecessary and excessive force” against demonstrators, injuring at least 21 people and “repeatedly beat and otherwise ill-treated” at least 17 during and after arrests, it said.
In the capital, Indonesian police fired tear gas to disperse protesters who took to the streets yesterday to mark the first anniversary of the swearing in of Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
A group of about 60 demonstrators blocked a road in the Menteng neighborhood of central Jakarta with wooden benches and attacked police who tried to remove them.
They hurled rocks and sticks at the riot police, who responded with tear gas. Local media reported that police also fired several shots, but this could not be immediately confirmed.
One of the demonstrators shouted “this is the source of the mess in this country” as they set a poster of Yudhoyono alight.
“We had to fire tear gas to disperse the protesters as they set fire to the president’s poster,” Jakarta police spokesman Boy Rafli Amar said. “We’ll take firmer action against them if they start to burn cars or buildings.”
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