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Indonesian officials confirm 13 soldiers arrested after torture video of Papuan man goes viral

Dechlan Brennan -

The Indonesian army has issued a rare apology after shocking footage emerged of soldiers torturing a Papuan man in a barrel.

The apology from the Indonesian military comes as international outrage mounts over the video, released by the West Papuan National Liberation Army (TPNPB), of an incident in Gome in Papua's Puncak regency on February 3.

It shows a Papuan man, Defianus Kogoya, in a barrel of bloodied water, being cut with a blade. Other footage showed Mr Kogoya being kicked and punched in the face, his hands tied behind his back.

One of the torturers tells others to be patient and wait their turn.

The footage shows at least five Tentara Nasional Indonesia (TNI) men involved in the torture, one wearing the number 300 for his battalion, the Raider 300/Braja Wijaya Infantry Battalion (Yonif).

Maj. Gen. Izak Pangemanan (right) speak in a news conference at the Military Headquarters in Jakarta

(Image: Antara Photo/Muhammad Adimaja)

Senior army officer Izak Pangemanan confirmed the footage was authentic and said 13 soldiers had been arrested, and a further 40 questioned in the country's Papua region, which has seen Indonesia routinely accused of human rights violations, as well as accusations of torture and unlawful killings.

"This action is against the law, tarnished the name of the military and disrupted efforts to handle conflicts in Papua," he told reporters, according to Reuters.

"I apologise to all Papuans, and we will work to ensure this is never repeated."

West Papuan independence leader Benny Wenda said he was "horrified" by the video.

"Watching the video, I was reminded of the horror of my childhood, when I was forced to watch my uncle being tortured by Suharto's thugs. The Indonesian government have committed these crimes for sixty years now," he said in a statement.

"Though it is extreme and shocking, this video merely exposes how Indonesia behaves every day in my country. Torture is such a widespread military practice that it has been described as a 'mode of governance' in West Papua."

Mr Pangemanan described the actions of the TNI members - confirmed as 13 non-commissioned officers and enlisted soldiers - as rogue and not in keeping with the military's vision and approach in Papua.

"We will investigate it thoroughly," he said of Mr Kogoya's torture. "Nobody should escape – those who were involved will be punished in accordance with the existing laws."

Major General Pangemanan claimed Mr Kogoya was a separatist who had admitted to plotting - along with two others - to burn a health centre in Central Papua. He claimed Mr Kogoya had previously wounded a member of the TNI, causing the soldiers to become "emotional."

Human Rights groups have alleged Indonesia uses torture in the province to elicit confessions. Indonesian authorities do not allow foreign media into the region, making independent verification of claims difficult.

"I ask everyone who watches the video to remember that West Papua is a closed society, cut off from the world by a sixty-year media ban imposed by Indonesia's military occupation," Mr Wenda said.

"How many victims go unnoticed by the world? How many incidents are not captured on film?"

Benny Wanda has condemned the killings (Image: ABC News)

There has been widespread condemnation in Indonesia, often highly defensive of the actions of the TNI in Papua. Both President Joko Widodo's office as well as Indonesia's human rights commission have condemned the actions.

Ramadi Ahmad, the vice-chief of presidential staff, said: "Of course, it's our hope that our soldiers would not be involved in this barbaric act, but if it's proven true, the individuals must be dealt with firmly in accordance with the applicable rules and regulations."

Amnesty's spokesman in Jakarta, Usman Ahmid, said: "Even if he is a member of the armed rebels, you can't torture him. Even in wartime, you can't torture people."

In a twist on Monday, a press conference by Indonesia's top military brass said a second Papuan, identified as Warinus Kogoya, died when he allegedly threw himself out of a vehicle while he was restrained, hitting his head.

Warinus, described by Indonesian authorities as a "fugitive of Puncak police", was accused of firing at soldiers during the alleged arson plot.

"Perhaps due to imbalance, he fell, and his head hit a stone," Maj. Gen. Pangemanan said. "He died on the way to the community health centre."

It is unclear if Defianus Kogoya survived being tortured. The TNI have said he is alive and with his family after being released to a health clinic. However, Amnesty says he died from his injuries. It was reported a military official said his "body" had been returned to his family, however confusion may stem from Warinus and Defianus having the same family name.

Resource-rich Papua, Indonesia's easternmost region, has experienced clashes between the military and independence forces since 1969.

These have escalated in recent years, with Reuters reporting pro-independence fighters have procured more sophisticated weapons.


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