JAKARTA Jan 24 Human rights groups have
criticised sentences handed out on Monday to three low-ranking
Indonesian soldiers whose alleged torture of indigenous Papuans
caused a sensation on Youtube.
An Indonesian military court said there was insufficient
evidence to charge the three with torture, and so had sentenced
them to up to 10 months in jail for disobeying orders.
Western countries such as the United States and Australia
are forging closer ties with the world's most populous Muslim
country -- particularly on defence and security -- despite
remaining watchful of its human rights situation.
Resource-rich Papua province, home to the world's largest
gold mine, has a heavy military presence because of a simmering
campaign for greater autonomy by its people who also want a
greater slice of the benefits from its resources.
Journalists and rights workers are barred from the province,
which is Indonesia's easternmost territory and the western
half of a big island with Papua New Guinea to the east.
The trial of the three was ordered after Youtube clips (bit.ly/9JSMsX)
emerged that seemed to show them shoving burning sticks against
the genitals of a Papuan man, and a knife against the neck of
"Their mistake was disobedience against their superiors,"
Lieutenant Colonel Harry Priyatna, a spokesman for the military
command in Papua, said by telephone.
"There was not enough evidence (to charge them with
torture), so to avoid them being acquitted we laid the
disobedience charge," he said.
Rights groups said the trial showed how the military was
reluctant to abide by human rights principles or to reform its
"This is a miscarriage of justice, a manipulation of
justice," said Usmad Hamid of New York-based International
Center for Transitional Justice.
Another rights campaigner, Ridha Saleh of the National
Commission on Human Rights, said: "The (military) has not
learned a lesson. I think this goes to show, as the public
believes, that the military court is not independent."
Saleh's group said this month it had recorded about 40
incidents of violence by military personnel in Papua between
2004 and 2010.
(Reporting by Olivia Rondonuwu; Editing by David Fox and Robert