Four Soldiers Jailed for Papua Abuse

JAYAPURA

Four soldiers have been sentenced to between five and seven months in jail for minor disciplinary infringements, after they were filmed abusing Papuan civilians.

A military tribunal gave three privates five months each last Thursday for breaching the military code of conduct and their platoon commander seven months for allowing the abuse to occur.

“The defendants kicked the detainees’ heads and backs and hit their heads with helmets,” chief judge Lieutenant-Colonel Adil Karokaro told the tribunal in Papua provincial capital, Jayapura.

The sentences were heavier than military prosecutors’ recommendation of three months.

Critics of the Indonesian military say the case would never have gone to court had a video of the abuse, which occurred in the Punjak Jaya area of Papua in March, not appeared online.

Human rights workers labelled the trial a farce after senior military officials said it would deal with soldiers involved in the gruesome and far more serious torture of two Papuan detainees in May.

A video of the May incident also found its way to human rights workers, who released it online ahead of visits to Jakarta by the leaders of Australia and the United States, two key backers of the Indonesian military.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono promised “no immunity” for the perpetrators but no charges have been laid.

Human rights activists accuse the Indonesian military of killings, murder, torture and abuse of Papua’s ethnic Melanesian majority.

Papuan separatists have fought a low-intensity war for independence for decades, claiming that a vote by a small group of tribal elders which ceded the massive territory to Indonesia in the 1960s was a sham.

Peaceful Papuan political activists are regularly given lengthy jail terms for crimes such as possessing outlawed rebel flags.

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