The recent past has seen a number of videos of Indonesian soldiers torturing West Papuans have surfaced. One in particular, was especially graphic and gratuitous in the violence being perpetrated against the victims. The publishing of this video should have caused Indonesia significant embarrassment as it has continually claimed that Papuans for the most part want to be a part of Indonesia and that Papua is far less "restive" and "separatist" than the media portray it to be.
Unfortunately, the acute embarrassment that Indonesia feigned at the time passed very quickly. Suggestions that the type of brutality witnessed in the video was unacceptable and that the authorities would investigate fully and prosecute the perpetrators to the full extent of the law were greeted with some degree of skepticism . And, this skepticism has been proven to be justified.
Three Indonesian soldiers have gone on trial for their respective roles in the torture. However, they have not been charged with any offenses relating the physical abuse, the torture, that they committed. Instead they have been charged with disobeying orders.
At a military court hearing in Jayapura the reasons for the charge were laid out in the following terms:
- Aside from the video there is no evidence that the three committed any offenses against the victims
- The victims refused to submit any statements to the court.
The maximum punishment that could be imposed on the three is 30 months in a military prison.
To suggest that the trial is a whitewash of another dirty chapter in Indonesia's occupation of West Papua is an understatement. The outrages committed against the Papuans rival those committed against the people of Timor Leste. The difference, sadly, is that the UN was complicit in the integration of West Papua into the Republic of Indonesia through its participation in the fraud that was the "Act of Free Choice". It is estimated that almost one-fifth of the West Papuan population have perished during this often bloody occupation.
Yet, any serious consideration of Indonesia's ability to address human rights crimes must note that, the despite the enactment of a human rights law and the establishment of a human rights court, has been very, very, very poor. The President, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY), is a former general and a man with many skeletons in his closet that for the most part he has been given a pass on because of the promise he offered for change when elected to the presidency. However, he is also the president that promised a grieving nation that those responsible for the assassination of Munir in 2004 would be brought to justice.
So, the suggestion that the Papuan victims of these more recent outrages would see justice was more "omong kosong". This trial and the litany of failures throughout the SBY first, and now second, terms as president highlight that the President is not in control of the running of his own administration. The "reformasi" (or reformation) period in Indonesia has been like watching a wayang performance where you can clearly see the puppets but never see the puppet master (dalang).
But, I digress. The point is a simple one: for Indonesia, like any other country, to move forward it must face up to the ugliness of its past with respect to the violations of human rights that have been perpetrated against Indonesians. Furthermore, there is a need to not only acknowledge that these outrages are continuing in the present, but to be pro-active in ensuring that they stop.
Free West Papua!
Thus endeth today's rant and rail.