Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Brutality in paradise

The bound and naked man looks terrified and confused as the soldiers stamp on his face and chest. As they demand to know where “the weapons” are, they shove a plastic bag over his head and ram a gun in his neck. When he tells them he doesn’t know what they’re talking about they set fire to a stick......and burn his genitals. The camera pans to another younger man, also bound on the ground as soldiers slap him, hold a knife to his face and threaten to cut him.

This is the Indonesian occupation of West Papua in 2010.

The footage is one of the most disturbing things you’ll ever see. It should be shown – to highlight the Indonesian state’s brutality against the West Papuan people – but it should be viewed with discretion. Any right thinking person will be shaken and horrified by the sheer barbarity it contains.

Of course, the Indonesian government is no stranger to dishing out brutality. The occupation of East Timor from 1975-1999 killed over a quarter of million people through orchestrated massacres, enforced starvation and extrajudicial executions. The occupation West Papua – beginning back in 1961 is equally barbaric: the torture is merely the latest in a long line of abhorrent abuses in which Indonesian troops have regularly slaughtered civilians, forced Papuan men to rape Papuan women and destroyed entire villages.

Although initially denying the authenticity of the film –which was captured as a sick trophy on one of the soldiers’ phones – the Indonesian government, in response to international outcry, has now admitted that it is real (bizarrely branding it “unprofessional” rather than repulsive, inhumane or any number of far more fitting adjectives). Unsurprisingly though, nothing has been done to address to the torture- which is effectively official Indonesian government policy in West Papua.

The soldiers suspected that the men they were brutalising were members of the small armed resistance movement. This consists of a few Papuans who – with full justification – take up primitive arms (often no more than bows and arrows) against the mighty and genocidal Indonesian army, in an unwinnable attempt to protect their homes and countrymen. The men’s ultimate fate remains unknown, though like so many innocent Papuans before them – activists fear they may have been shot, beheaded or buried alive following their ordeal.

In this tropical paradise – the ultimate acts of inhumanity and brutality are reigning.

Unfortunately –just like the international community turned its back on East Timor for so long, so too are governments around the world leaving the people of West Papua to their unimaginable fate. The UK continues to recognise Indonesia’s so called “territorial integrity”, the US continues to fund and train Indonesian security forces and Australia –despite a sympathetic public- has carefully avoided condemning the occupation. Direct appeals –including those from political prisoners to David Cameron have so far fallen on death ears.

Yet the global movement for West Papua is growing, awareness is spreading and incidents such as the tortures last week are receiving an unprecedented level of attention. In light of this harrowing and graphic footage, Indonesia’s second genocide of the 21st Century may become much harder to ignore.

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