Torture of Papuan man in Nabire again captured on video – Security force violence is rampant in West Papua

On 26 July 2021, a video showing two military members torturing a deaf Papuan man in Merauke caused public outrage across West Papua. Two days following the incident, another similar video taken in the Nabire Regency has gone viral on social media. This time, witnesses recorded two mobile police brigade officers torturing a Papuan man in the Bumiwonoreja village on 28 July 2021. Joint security forces had been deployed to the village to secure local elections. The Papuan police chief, Mathius D Fakhiri, declared during a press conference on 29 July 2021 that both officers have been taken into custody and are currently investigated by Propam, an internal disciplinary police unit.

Two police officers witnessed a dispute between election supervisors and a resident named Nicolas Mote, 29, before the torture. Thereupon, the officers Ilvakum and Taufik Rahman dragged Nicolas Mote by the shirt to a truck with several military members. As Mr Mote was hesitant to climb into the truck, one of the officers struck him at least five times to the right temple (see photo, source: screenshot from video) before detaining him at the Nabire police station.

Shortly after the incident, a second video was uploaded on social media. One of the officers and Mr Mote sit at the Nabire police station and shake hands. The officer apologises to the victim for the misconduct, adding that he had beaten Nicolas Mote because he thought Mr Mote was drunk.

The officer’s statement indicates a lack of professionalism and the continuous existence of racist stigmata against ethnic Papuans among many security force members in West Papua. Papuans are often looked down on as trouble makers and as drunkards. Apparently, the officer did not attempt to understand the reason for the argument between Mr Mote and the other residents but immediately dragged him to the police vehicle and punched him repeatedly on the head. Moreover, international and national police standards dictate that non-violent means are to be attempted first, while force is to be used only when strictly necessary. The use of force shall always be proportional to the lawful objectives.

The videos expose only the peak of the iceberg. Research by the International Coalition for Papua (ICP) concluded that cases of torture were reported from 22 out of 40 regencies in the provinces of Papua and Papua Barat throughout 2019 and 2020. Twenty-two cases of torture were documented in 2019 and 34 cases in 2020. Human rights defenders documented a total number of 215 victims.

The police continue to be the top perpetrator in cases of torture and ill-treatment throughout 2019 and 2020, with 51.8% of the cases. Army members and joint security forces were both equally responsible for 21.4% of such violations. Fife-point-four per cent of the cases were attributed to other actors who appeared to act on behalf of security forces or committed ill-treatments against victims in the presence of security force members. The numbers do not show significant deviations in comparison with findings throughout 2017 and 2018, apart from the fact that the number of cases committed by joint security forces has almost tripled. One reason for this development is ongoing security force operations against the TPN PB in the Papuan central highlands, which resulted in more violent acts against civilians.