National

Indonesia to try Papua
torture video accused

Indonesia's president pledged Monday that the soldiers accused of torturing suspected separatists in footage posted online would go on trial before a military tribunal.

In the clip that came to light last month, men tied in contorted positions are held down on the ground and questioned. At one point, one man's genitals are burned. Another answers questions while a knife blade is jammed under his nose and occasionally dragged across his face and neck. The perpetrators' faces can't be seen, but a uniform is sometimes visible.

The victims were thought to be from the restive eastern province of Papua. The government has confirmed the abusers were soldiers.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono told a news conference in the capital Jakarta on Monday that an investigation had been completed and a military court would meet in the near future.

"Let's prove that it was not a state policy, there were mistakes and should be punishment," he said, adding that such mistakes could have happened in many countries, including Afghanistan and Iraq.

The video posted online by the Hong Kong-based Asian Human Rights Commission has drawn condemnation from newspapers, legislators and rights groups in the young democracy. The New York-based Human Rights Watch said a metadata analysis indicated the clip was filmed on a 3G cell phone camera on May 30, 2010.

Yudhoyono urged the country's military leaders not to hold up efforts to reform the army - which was often used by former dictator Suharto to stifle dissent, especially in far-flung regions with aspirations of independence like Papua - with such incidents in the future.

"There should be no impunity, the trial must be fair and transparent. ... All are equal before the law," sad Yudhoyono, himself a former four-star general who has been largely successful in cleaning up the image of the armed forces since taking power six years ago.

In that time, the U.S. has even restored military ties, long severed over concerns of abuse.

Indonesia took over Papua from the Dutch in 1963, and a small, poorly armed separatist movement has battled for independence ever since. Jakarta formalized its sovereignty over Papua six years later through a state-managed vote by about 1,000 community leaders.

Human rights groups say more than 100,000 people - a fifth of the impoverished province's population - have died as result of military action since the region was integrated into Indonesia.

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