Videos of Indonesian soldiers torturing Papuan go viral – Human rights defenders demand judicial process against perpetrators

Videos of Indonesian soldiers torturing an indigenous Papuan have gone viral on social media and caused public outrage. Human rights defenders found hints that the video might have been taken during a security force raid in Omukia and Gome on 3 and 4 February 2024. Both districts are located in the Puncak Regency, Pegunungan Tengah Province. One of the men is wearing an army shirt with a 300 imprint, indicating his affiliation with the III/Siliwangi, Yonif Raider 300/Brajawijaya Unit. The unit was deployed in the Puncak Regency for several months until 16 February 2024 before returning to their battalion in Cianiur, Jawa Barat Province. The video is rare visual evidence of the utmost brutality used by security force members during raids in conflict areas across West Papua. The XVII Cenderawasih spokesperson, Lieutenant Inf Candra Kurniawan, stated that his men are currently examining the truthfulness of the video.

Such raids have repeatedly occurred in the regencies Nduga, Pegunungan Bintang, Intan Jaya, Puncak, and Yahukimo – all located in the central Papuan highlands. Security forces regard these regencies as strongholds of the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB). Human rights organisations have repeatedly raised concerns regarding atrocities against the civilian population during such raids, including acts of arbitrary detention, burning of houses, torture, enforced disappearance, and extra-judicial killings.

The video shows a Papuan man with hands tied to his back. He is sitting in a blue drum filled with water that has turned red as a result of blood from his wounds. The drum is surrounded by at least five non-Papuans, some wearing military trousers and one wearing an army shirt with a 300 imprint on the front. The men speak Indonesian with a Javanese accent (see video below. Viewer discretion is advised for these graphic images).

The videos display different forms of torture. One video shows the victim shivering. A man in a black jacket and black fingerless gloves repeatedly stabs and slashes the shoulder with a knife while saying, “{[The skin is] though. This feels good, right?” The second video shows various non-Papuan men taking turns punching, elbowing, and kicking the victim in the face and the back of the head. One man is beating the Papuan detainee with a stick, repeatedly shouting, “Take your head up. Dog! Bastard!”. Another man steps in and says,” It’s time to switch. Be patient.”

Human rights organisations urged Indonesian authorities to immediately investigate the allegations of torture and take legal firm action against the perpetrators. Cases of torture have been rampant in West Papua due to the widespread impunity in the region. Perpetrators are not held accountable in public trials, while the internal court processes, particularly police internal disciplinary procedures, lack transparency and independence. The perpetrators often receive sentences that are disproportionately lenient with regard to the severity of the crime. Recent military tribunals related to the enforced disappearance and execution of five indigenous Papuans in the regencies Intan Jaya and Mimika illustrate the pressing issue of accountability and impunity in West Papua.

Raids in the Districts Gome und Omukia, February 2024

According to information compiled by human rights defenders in Puncak, security forces raided the villages Manggume and Aminggaru, Omukia District, as well as in the villages Yenggernok and Agiyome in the Gome District, following the theft of an automatic firearm by members of the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB) on 1 February 2024. According to information received, on 3 and 4 February 2024, security force members burnt houses in various villages to the ground and arbitrarily tortured villagers.

One Papuan villager reportedly died because of the injuries he sustained due to the torture. At least three other civilians were injured after being tortured, including one pastor named Rev Eriak Waker. The torture occurred during his interrogation in the Yenggernok Village.

According to information received, security force members carried out a raid in the Manggume Village, Omukia District, on 4 February 2024, around 10.00 am. Mr Andinus Murib, 21, and Mr Devius Wanikbo, 19, were fixing the roof of a house when the security forces came to the villages. Villagers panicked and fled to the forest while Mr Murib and Mr Wandikbo were trapped on the roof. They were temporarily detained and tortured by security forces.

Mr Murib and Mr Wandikbo were admitted to the public hospital after losing consciousness due to the pain they experienced during the torture. On 5 February 2024, authorities suggested transferring both patients to Timika, where the hospital was better equipped. However, the relatives rejected the offer. Instead, they brought Mr Murib and Mr Wandikbo back to the village and treated them with traditional medicine because they feared further violence or criminalisation by the authorities.

During the raid in Manggume on 4 February 2024, security forces encountered Mr Werinus Murib, 20, in the forest near the village around 11.15 am while collecting firewood. After being arrested, security force members reportedly tortured Mr Murib until he succumbed to the injuries he sustained. The pattern of injuries indicated that the security force member beat and kicked the victim’s head and body using bare hands and blunt objects. The body also had stabbing and slashing injuries. Witnesses saw joint security forces tying Mr Murib’s feet to a car and allegedly dragging him for a distance of 1 kilometre. Mr Murib died on the way to the hospital as a result of the injuries he sustained.

Presence of Military in Puncak Regency

The XVII Cenderawasih spokesperson, Lieutenant Inf Candra Kurniawan, declared that he had never received any complaints about the presence of III/Siliwangi, Yonif Raider 300/Brajawijaya Unit in Puncak. “There have never been complaints of harsh behaviour towards the community. In fact, the community is pleased with the presence of the Yonif 300 / R Task Force and was honoured by the Dani tribe with the title Kogoya from the Chief of the Puncak Regency Tribe in Gome.”

The video is a crack in the image of the military. Military officials have been trying to promote the military as being close to the people in Papua. Military members become teachers and provide medical services because the fundamental healthcare and education services in conflict areas remain dysfunctional. Professional health and education workers have left the areas (see images below, source: independent HRDs). The image contradicts information shared by affected community members in the Puncak Regency. Human Rights Monitor has received complaints about the heavy military presence in conflict areas, including from the Puncak Regency, as part of the Government’s soft security approach in West Papua. In November 2021, the coordinating minister for political, legal, and security affairs, Mahfud MD, declared a new security force approach in West Papua, which implied that military members should directly engage in community matters, participating in education, health, and infrastructural services in conflict-affected areas. Military members reportedly visit homes, schools, and public medical facilities. The government-driven practice is highly concerning, as many indigenous children in West Papua are afraid of the military. They have been traumatized over generations by the history of human rights violations over a period of more than 50 years.  Moreover, the presence of military members in communities exposes civilians to a higher risk of becoming civilian victims during armed clashes between the conflict parties

Video of Indonesian soldiers torturing indigenous Papuan

X-Mas video promoting the presence of the Yonif Raider 300 Brajawijaya in the Puncak Regency

Photos of Yonif Raider 300 Siliwangi members in the Puncak Regency

Military members visiting schools and providing basic medical services in the Puncak Regency