[JURIST] Indonesian officials on Friday admitted to their soldiers’ involvement in the torture of Papuan detainees, which garnered international outrage after a video of the torture surfaced [CNN report; WARNING: readers may find the video disturbing] this week. Security Affairs Minister Djoko Suyanto [website, in Bahasa] said that the solders “overreacted,” and promised a thorough investigation [AFP report]. The admission comes four months after Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] urged the Indonesian government to release secession activists and adhere to international standards of free speech [report materials; press release]. The report, “Prosecuting Political Aspiration: Indonesia’s Political Prisoners,” criticized the Indonesian government for its treatment of people imprisoned for peaceful political expression related to the Papuan [Economist backgrounder] and Moluccan [GlobalSecurity backgrounder] secession movements. According to HRW, these prisoners are subjected to torture, poor prison conditions and the denial of medical services and are transferred to prisons distant from their homes [JURIST report] in order to isolate them from their families .
The Indonesian government has also faced criticism over other human rights issues. Earlier this month, the Indonesian Constitutional Court [official website, in Bahasa] overturned a law [JURIST report] that has allowed the Indonesian government to ban books it deemed controversial for nearly 50 years. The court found that giving the Attorney General the authority to ban books violated the Indonesian Constitution [text] by denying basic human rights without due process of the law. 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 ICCPR.