Skip to main content

Indonesian official: Military 'elements' may have tortured two men

From Sara Sidner, CNN
Click to play
Alleged torture video surfaces
  • A group says both victims were unarmed farmers
  • Initial reports cite human rights violations
  • Papua has a low-level independence insurgency

(CNN) -- Members of the Indonesia military may have been involved in the torture of two men in the country's province of Papua, a government official said on Friday.

The incident came to light after a video surfaced showing men burning the genitals of a naked and bound man, and holding a knife to the nose and neck of another bound man on a dusty road while interrogating them.

"The investigation is still going on but initial reports I received from the armed forces commander, show that there were elements of the military who were involved in those excessive, unprofessional acts, that were clearly a violation of human rights, Indonesian Coordinating Minister for Political and Security Affairs Djoko Suyanto told CNN.

The video is believed to be from the Indonesian province of Papua, nearly 3,500 kilometers east of the capital, Jakarta.

Video: Military 'elements' may have tortured

Papua has long had a low-level insurgency that demands independence from Indonesia, saying the government is trying to take its land to steal resources. But both victims in this case were unarmed farmers, the Alliance of Papuan students told CNN.

The scenes were recorded on a cell phone, and the imagery brought stiff condemnation from human rights groups who believe the video is possible evidence of Indonesian armed forces torturing members of independence movements.

Human rights groups say that while they haven't determined the authenticity of the video, they have clues that the persecutors are members of the Indonesian armed forces.

For example, the weapon being used in the video appears to be a standard military issue and the questions posed by the interrogators are consistent with those of Indonesian security forces, said Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch's Asia division.

Human Rights Watch is concerned that the government will let the case linger without a resolution.

They [soldiers] should be aware of their duties, responsibility, [and] provided with knowledge of human rights.
--Aslizar Tanjung, Indonesian military spokesman

Another video surfaced this year showing a disemboweled Papuan political activist being taunted by men in police uniforms. Police denied allegations that their forces disemboweled him. They said he was injured in a firefight, and no officer has been disciplined in that incident.

The indigenous Free Papua Movement was established in 1965 to push for the secession of Papua from Indonesia. The group disputed the terms under which Papua became a part of Indonesia that year.

Papua has the largest gold mine in the world, operated by the U.S.-based Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold, but members of the freedom movement say locals have not received fair economic benefits from any of the mining operations on their homeland.