Three Indonesian soldiers who were captured on video torturing two Papuan villagers last May, were sentenced today (24 January 2011) to between eight and ten months in prison. Human rights organisations have condemned the short sentences that were handed out in the closed military court, citing this as evidence that the Indonesian military is not serious about improving its human rights record.
The disturbing and graphic video, released by Survival International and others on the internet last October, showed an elderly man stripped naked, a plastic bag being forced over his head, and a burning stick being held to his genitals. Another man had a knife held at his throat.
Despite the torture shown in the video, the soldiers were only found guilty of disobeying orders. Military prosecutors said there was not enough evidence to charge the soldiers with torture or assault because the victims would not appear as witnesses.
The victims were too frightened to testify in court for fear of military reprisals. Tuanliwor Kiwo, the man shown in the film having his genitals burnt by soldiers, has given a detailed account of his ordeal, which lasted for two days. He said he was repeatedly beaten and suffocated and burnt with hot metal and cigarettes. His body was then covered with chilli, onions, detergent and salt, which was spread over his wounds. Sure that he would be killed if he remained; he managed to escape on the third day.
The Indonesian President, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, has further angered Papuans by describing the torture depicted in the video as "a minor incident".
Survival's Director, Stephen Corry said today, "These derisory sentences are a kick in the teeth for the Papuan people who have suffered so much at the hands of the Indonesian soldiers. The impunity with which Indonesian soldiers are allowed to murder and torture innocent Papuans must end."