Torture video soldiers charged only with ‘disobeying orders’

The torture footage caused widespread anger and revulsion.
The torture footage caused widespread anger and revulsion.
© Survival

Three soldiers who were captured on video torturing two Papuan villagers last May are being tried in a military court. But despite the beatings and torture shown in the video, the soldiers have only been charged with ‘failing to follow orders’.

The disturbing and graphic video, released by Survival and others on the internet last October, showed an elderly man stripped naked, a plastic bag being forced over his head, and a burning stick being held to his genitals. The military prosecutor, Mr Soemantri, said soldiers are supposed to ‘interrogate people in a persuasive way’.

Shortly after the video was posted online the Indonesian military confirmed that the men seen torturing the Papuans were soldiers. President Yudhoyono promised a ‘full and speedy investigation’.

However, the soldiers have not been charged with assault, but with insubordination for ‘ignoring the instructions of their commander’. They face a maximum of 30 months in prison.

The mobile phone footage taken by the soldiers was clear evidence of human rights abuses being committed. However, Mr Soemantri said that when they were holding a burning stick to the genitals of Mr Kiwo the soldiers were ‘disobeying orders’.

Despite the soldiers confessing to the attack, the existence of the video and detailed statements collected from the victims by human rights workers, Mr Soemantri said that no assault charges could be laid because ‘there is no victim…The victim didn’t report to us as a witness’. Ifdhal Kasim, President of the National Human Rights Commission, said that the two ‘wanted to testify,’ but they fear ‘reprisals’ by the military.