Three Indonesian soldiers accused of torturing Papuan detainees received prison sentences Monday of less than one year. Citing lack of evidence [Al Jazeera report], a military judge convicted the men of the lesser crime of insubordination instead of torture. He sentenced [VOA report] one of the men to 10 months imprisonment, one to nine months and the third to eight months. The men were caught on video [CNN report; WARNING: readers may find the video disturbing] carrying out the torture last October. They were tried by a military tribunal after Indonesian officials admitted [JURIST reports] to their soldiers' involvement in the torture. International human rights groups have reacted negatively to the prison sentences, saying they are too lenient [press release]. Amnesty International's Asia-Pacific Deputy Program Director Donna Guest said:
It is incredible that senior Indonesian government officials have called this abuse - which included one of the men having his genitals burned - a 'minor violation.' While we welcome government efforts to provide justice for the two Papuan men, the fact that the victims were too frightened to testify in person due to the lack of adequate safety guarantees, raises serious questions about the trial process.The group called for human rights violations to be prosecuted in civilian, rather than military, courts.
Indonesia has recently faced criticism over a variety of recent human rights issues. In December, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] urged the Indonesian government to repeal [JURIST report] two Sharia laws [report materials; press release] that the group says violate human rights and international treaties. The laws, local to the Aceh province, require strict Islamic dress in public and prohibit unmarried men and women from being alone together. In June, HRW released a report [report materials; JURIST report] criticizing the Indonesian government for its treatment of Papuan [Economist backgrounder] and Moluccan [GlobalSecurity backgrounder] secessionists who, according to the report, face imprisonment, torture and denial of medical treatment for their beliefs. In April, the Constitutional Court voted 8-1 to uphold [JURIST report] a controversial anti-blasphemy law enacted in 1965 by the first Indonesian president. In 2008, HRW called for Indonesia to protect freedom of religion [JURIST report] and reverse a decree that provides for the prosecution of members of a controversial Islamic sect and to uphold its commitments under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights [text].