JAKARTA, Indonesia — Indonesian security forces have been captured on video torturing an alleged separatist in Papua province, burning his genitals as he screams out in agony and then threatening to shoot him in the mouth, human rights activists said Monday.
The body of the victim, identified as Werius Selenggen, was found soon after in the mountainous region, where soldiers, police and anti-terror officers had been searching for insurgents and weapons, said Matius Murib, of the independently run National Commission on Human Rights.
Indonesia has made tremendous strides toward democracy since emerging from 32 years of dictatorship just over a decade ago. But in Papua, home to a long-running, low-level insurgency, security forces are still accused of arbitrary imprisonment, torture and killings.
The government bars foreign journalists, human rights workers and academics access to the province, making it difficult to verify such claims.
But increasingly, brutal videos have found their way onto the Internet.
Earlier this year, a prisoner was shown lying in a jungle clearing moments after military police allegedly sliced open his abdomen. As they watched him die, they taunted him, calling him an atheist and a savage.
Like other cases, the government has promised to investigate.
The 10-minute clip of Selenggen — a copy of which was obtained by the Hong Kong-based Asian Human Rights Commission — appears to have been taken by one of the interrogators on a mobile phone.
A military spokesman confirmed the men, dressed in plain clothes, were soldiers, though he questioned when the video was shot and the motive of those who leaked it.
They are shown gathering around Selenggen as he lies naked on patch of gravel in the remote village of Puncak Jaya. One steps roughly on his chest, as another repeatedly asks where he and his friends have stashed their weapons.
“Where did you put them? In the church? The woods? Along the river? In a pigsty? Tell me!” barks one of the interrogators.
Selenggen says he doesn't know, that he's a just an ordinary villager, and is kicked in the gut by one soldier, while another stubs a lit cigarette out in his face.
“You're a liar. Get the fire. Burn him,” the interrogator says and a soldier jumps up to carry out an order to burn Selenggen's genitals.
Another later holds a gun to his mouth and threatens to pull the trigger.
Murib, the human rights official, said Selenggen was a member of a local church council who was accused of helping hide separatists and arms.
His body was found in late 2009, he said, without providing details about the cause of death.
The same video also shows another Papuan suspect being threatened with a knife.
“For us, it's an old song,” said Forkorus Yabuisembut, a pro-independence activist. “The types of abuses carried by security forces are so far beyond humane ... nothing has changed.”
The central government insists such atrocities, which were widespread under Suharto's dictatorship, are a thing of the past.
But they promised to investigate.
“It probably happened in a different era and someone leaked it to make us look bad,” said Lt. Col. Susilo, a provincial military spokesman, without specifying when.
“But I promise you, if it does turn out these abuses were carried out recently, we'll find out who was responsible and we'll come down hard,” said Susilo, who goes by only one name.
Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim country, took over Papua from the Dutch in 1963 and formalized its sovereignty six years later through a stage-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.