Video of police officers torturing three Papuan students in Sentani goes viral

A group of police officers allegedly beat three Papuan students in the town of Sentani, Jayapura Regency, on 5 May 2023. Two of the beatings were caught on camera. According to the information received, the police officers beat Mr Ati Wisal, 19 years, Mr Wefron Towolom, 19 years, and Mr Oki Yoman, 19 years, because they had spraypainted their school uniform with a Morning Star Symbol – a common practice across West Papua on graduation day. The pupils are enrolled to different senior high schools in Sentani. Police officers arrived at the SMKN1 Sentani with 4 police cars and one police truck. Thereupon, police officers approached pupils with morning star symbols in their shirts and forced them to remove their shirts while collectively punching them in the face.

The video shows police officers repeatedly punching two of the students in the head. One officer beats a student with a baton. Another man in plain cloth, who appears to be a bystander, approaches a student surrounded by police officers from behind and kicks him into the back. The police officers witness the attack but do not protect the student (see video below). The video quickly went viral on social media platforms.

Mr Ati Wisal was punched twice to the back of the head by a police officer wearing a uniform. A police officer in uniform beat Mr Yoman three times with a rattan stick on the back,  punched him once on the left check, and kicked him on the back. Other officers collectively punched him on the head while Mr Yoman was covering his face with the hands to protect himself from the punches. An officer in uniform approached Mr Towolom on the school yard punched him on the chin and the cheek causing bruises under the right eye. Moreover, the beati Mr Towolom with a rattan stick on the right shoulder. The police officers seized the students’ shirts, their motorcycles and other accessories with Morning Star symbols, such as bracelets. The motorcycles were returned to their owners.

On 8 May 2023, the Jayapura Police Chief, Commissioner Fredrick Macklarimboen, stated that two police officers are currently being investigated by the Profession and Security Division (Propam) Unit. He claimed the students were intoxicated and had not behaved politely as the police officers passed the location in a patrol vehicle. This narrative contradicts the testimonies by the victims. All stated that the police officers approached them, asking where they originate from and who had painted the Morning star symbol on their shirts. Mr Towolom and Mr Yoman both testified that the officers started beating them before they could respond to the officers’ questions.

The Morning Star is a symbol of cultural identity for indigenous Papuans. Article 2 of the Papuan Special Autonomy Law (UU Otsus) acknowledges the use of a regional emblem as a symbol of cultural identity if the symbol is not used to compromise the sovereignty of Indonesia. Indonesian authorities continue criminalising the use of the Morning Star on clothing and accessories. The Papuan independence movement promotes the Morning Star Flag as their National Flag.

Video: Police officers torture two of the victims in Sentani, 5 May 2023

Detailed Case Data
name of the location: Sentani (-2.5629905800691124, 140.54521136386913)
administrative region: Indonesia, Papua Province, Jayapura Regency, Sentani Town
total number of victims: three
period of incident: 05.05.2023
perpetrator: police
perpetrator details: unknown
Issues: torture, ill-treatment, indigenous peoples
Further HRM News:

NumberName, DetailsGenderAgeGroup AffiliationViolations
1 Ati Wisal, studentmaleindigenoustorture
1Wefron Towolom, studentmaleindigenoustorture
1Oki Yoman, studentmaleindigenoustorture