ASIA: Attacks on several human rights websites after release of Indonesian torture video

Since October 28, 2010, the Asian Human Rights Commission’s (AHRC) website has been subjected to a concerted “cyber-attack” in which computers with hidden locations and identities have been used to flood the website’s servers with fake requests, in order to overload it. This has resulted in visitors not being able to access the website’s content for much of this time and greatly hindered various urgent human rights campaigns that the AHRC has sought to launch, including an attempt to halt the imminent and unjust execution of a Sri Lankan domestic worker in Saudi Arabia.

The attacks appear to be in response to the release by the AHRC two weeks ago of a video (1
) showing the ill-treatment and torture of indigenous Papuan persons by the Indonesian military. This has led to significant interest around the world, following which the Indonesian authorities have admitted that members of the military were responsible for the serious violations depicted in the video, which include the burning of a man’s genitals during interrogation. The video was taken in the Tingginambut area near Puncak Jaya, Papua, Indonesia on May 30, 2010. Serious human rights violations, such as those shown in the video, are known to be widely perpetrated by the military and police in resource-rich West Papua.

The AHRC had initially also posted the video on Youtube, but it was removed after less than a day. Following this, the AHRC’s website became the target of increasing attacks. “This is not a simple hacker attack but a large-scale targeted operation involving significant resources on the attackers’ side,” according to the AHRC’s Executive Director, Mr. Wong Kai Shing.

Wong notes that “while it is impossible for us to identify the source of these attacks on our websites, as the attackers have taken measures to conceal their identities, we have serious concerns that the Indonesian authorities may have some role in this. Several other websites that have also featured the torture video have been subjected to similar attacks during the past week, including those of Survival International, West Papua Media Alerts, Free West Papua Campaign, Friends of People Close To Nature and West Papua Unite

It is important to note that US President Barack Obama is scheduled to visit Indonesia on November 9 and 10, 2010. The AHRC is gravely concerned that the Indonesian authorities’ admission and promise to launch an investigation into the violations shown in the video may simply be to placate the US prior to this visit. Local groups have rejected the idea of any investigation by the Indonesian authorities, questioning their ability to remain impartial, and have instead called for an international investigation team to shed light on the situation.

The US has reportedly recently resumed military cooperation with the Indonesian military’s special command forces, Kopassus, which conducts “unconventional warfare,” intelligence gathering and other operations, but has been accused of being responsible for human rights violations in West Papua and elsewhere. Members of the military typically enjoy complete impunity for their actions as they cannot be held accountable by civilian courts, due to the provisions of Indonesia’s military law, which must be reviewed without delay.

The concerted attacks aiming to silence the AHRC and others about this video add to concerns about a cover-up. “Attacks on the websites of human rights organizations such as the AHRC present a serious threat to freedom of expression in the internet and to the work of human rights defenders” added Wong. The international character of such attacks is a concern and goes beyond the restrictions on the freedom of expression on the internet via firewalling that some governments apply to limit internet access within their countries. “Such attacks can be launched from any country and may target websites in any other country. The increasing use of such cyber-attacks against global online civil society activism is an international challenge and requires an international solution. We are seeking the assistance of the United Nations Special Rapporteurs on Torture, on Freedom of Expression and on Human Rights Defenders concerning this situation, as a first step,” Wong explained.

The Asian Human Rights Commission calls on those behind the attacks on its website to immediately halt their attempts to obstruct legitimate human rights work and desist from any such attacks in future. The Indonesian Government is urged to give public guarantees that none of its institutions – or groups related to them – are behind such attacks and pledge not to use such attacks against human rights organizations in future. Indonesia must ensure an effective, transparent and independent investigation into the allegations of torture by the military in West Papua, led by the National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM).

The AHRC urges US President Obama to raise the issue of the torture video and impunity with the Indonesian Government during his visit, and seek guarantees that the Indonesian military will immediately halt the use of torture and cooperate fully with investigations into all alleged human rights violations in West Papua and elsewhere in the country.

The AHRC has taken steps to again make its websites’ content available and hopes that the attacks will now cease, so that it can resume its work in favour of human rights unimpeded.

For more information, please contact:

Wong Kai Shing, Executive Director, Hong Kong, +852 26986339 or write to


(1) Please see the video here: Should you have problems accessing the video, due to the ongoing attacks, please also try