INDONESIA: The legal process for perpetrators of torture is certainly not enough, hence, totally evaluate all apparatus deployments and end the security approach in the land of Papua

An Open Letter from the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) to the President of the Republic of Indonesia 

Mr. Joko Widodo
President of the Republic of Indonesia
Jl. Veteran No. 16
Jakarta Pusat

Tel: +62 21 3458 595
Fax: +62 21 3484 4759

Dear Mr. President,

Responding to the press conference based agenda held by the Indonesian National Military Headquarters, in this case represented by the Head of the Information Centre (Kapuspen) and the Major General of the Indonesian National Military Dr. Nugraha Gumilar, and the Commander of the XVII Cenderawasih Regional Military Command (Pangdam), the Head of the Indonesian Army Information Service (Kadispenad) and the Brigadier General of the Indonesian National Military Kristomei Sianturi, related to torture carried out by 13 Indonesian National Military members from the 300/Braja Wijaya Raider Infantry Battalion unit in the Puncak Regency, Papua, the AHRC supports the Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence (KontraS) provided response and also the notes which we attached to the release.

We strongly condemn the clarification statement submitted by the Indonesian National Military Headquarters which was delivered on March 25th, 2024, since it seems that they ignore the main problems of the conditions occurring in Papua. Various incidents of violence in Papua which resulted in many casualties among the civil society, the Organisasi Papua Merdeka (OPM) and State officials are a series of Military Operation policies issued by the Indonesian Government. Moreover, the case of torture carried out by 13 Indonesian National Military members against civilians occurred during the early leadership of the Indonesian National Military Commander, Mr. Agus Subiyanto, who emphasised the importance of a diplomatic approach to reducing violence in Papua. This situation is very contradictory to the violent situation that has occurred in the last two months. KontraS recorded that eight incidents of torture occurred between January and March 25th, 2024.

Therefore, we note that there are at least five points that we need to emphasise as follow:

First, Pangdam XVII/Cenderawasih’s confession regarding the torture incident carried out by members of the Yonif 300 Raider/Braja Wijaya unit. In his statement, the perpetrators’ motive for carrying out the torture was aimed at carrying out interrogations because the victims were suspected of being involved in the Tentara Pembebasan Nasional Papua Barat (TPNPB)-OPM movement. 

We condemn this statement because it is a form of legitimisation of the acts of torture carried out by the Indonesian National Military. We consider that even if someone is accused of committing a criminal act, they must prioritise the criminal justice system approach by prioritising the principle of the presumption of innocence, standards and the principle of the right to a fair trial.

Second, the absence of strict supervision makes actions carried out by military officers outside their authority. Referring to the tasks given to Yonif 300 Raider/BJ troops, they were actually assigned to carry out Border Security (Pamtas) operations in the border area of the Republic of Indonesia-Papua New Guinea. Thus, the statement made by the Cenderawasih Military Commander is contradictory to the tasks given by the Infantry Battalion 300 Raider/BJ.

Third, the incidents of torture that occurred also reinforced the perception of a ‘thick’ culture of violence in the Indonesian National Military institutions, especially officers serving in Papua. In his statement, the Head of the Indonesian Army Information Service, Mr. Kristomei Sianturi, stated that the torture was carried out based on information spread by the public that there would be an attack in the form of burning down the Community Health Centre, resulting in the arrest of the victim. In fact, under any circumstances, acts of torture cannot be justified, because they fall into the category of non-derogable rights based on Article 4 Paragraph (2) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which has been ratified into Law Number 12 of 2005.

Fourth, the Indonesian National Military seems to be covering up the facts and shifting the focus of the main problem by building a narrative that is outside the context of the case. This can be seen from the statement which stated that the unit that carried out this torture had actually done a good job as evidenced by the various achievements, for example by the Asmat Tribe and the Regent of Puncak Regency.

Fifth, high-ranking military officials in Papua are often not careful in making statements to the public when responding to incidents of violence committed by their members against civilians. This pattern or style of public communication shows the unprofessionalism of military officials who provide statements without a database. This situation will occur more frequently if there is no comprehensive and accountable evaluation of the military operation policies carried out in Papua so far. And, the Government as the duty bearer in the context of protecting human rights needs to encourage transparency and accountability for violence and human rights violations in Papua in accordance with the constitutional mandate and a number of regulatory norms that apply to the perpetrators as an effort to uphold the supremacy of law in Indonesia.

Based on the description above, we urge:

First, the President of the Republic of Indonesia to evaluate the total security policy so far implemented in resolving the conflict in Papua. Apart from that, the Government must also clarify the status of the operational areas in Papua, because clarity regarding security status is important in order to measure the operations being carried out, because so far, the military has often been excessively involved in security measures and law enforcement, and their implementation in resolving the conflict in Papua. 

Second, the Indonesian National Military Commander to carry out a total evaluation of the placement of Indonesian National Military personnel and military units in Papua. As the legal process continues, the Indonesian National Military must be open and provide regular updates regarding the ongoing legal process. Apart from that, the Indonesian National Military Commander and his staff must also tighten supervision of their subordinates, especially those who directly interact with civilians in Papua. Soldiers must ensure that they understand all standing procedures, standard operating procedures and human rights values so that similar incidents of violence do not happen again in the future;

Third, the National Human Rights Commission to take proactive action by deploying an investigation team regarding human rights violations that occur within its authority and paying attention to aspects of justice for the victims;

Fourth, The Witness and Victim Protection Agency (LPSK) to take responsive action by providing protection services for the victims.

Yours Sincerely,

Prakash Mohara 

Executive Director

Asian Human Rights Commission, Hong Kong