Magazine article New Internationalist

Leaked Video of 'Indonesia's Abu Ghraib' Raises International Awareness

Magazine article New Internationalist

Leaked Video of 'Indonesia's Abu Ghraib' Raises International Awareness

Article excerpt

1 DECEMBER

WEST PAPUA INDEPENDENCE DAY

'On· day my people will be free!' Benny Wcnda, of the Free West Papua campaign, insists from his home in exile in Britain. Forty-nine years after West Papua gained a shortlived independence - it lasted just seven months before the Indonesian military invaded - the struggle for selfdetermination continues, but Benny is cautiously optimistic.

In October, Indonesian military video footage found its way into the international media - apparently due to the military accidentally allowing the tape to pass to a Papuan. The videos, which can be seen on YouTube and the Free West Papua website and which, Wenda says, expose 'Indonesia's Abu Ghraib', show soldiers brutally beating, torturing and threatening Papuans. As a result, the mainstream press, including Britain's rightwing Daily Telegraph and the New York Times, picked up on the story, giving the West Papuan cause more exposure than it has had for a long time. The timing was fortuitous, since it coincided with President Obama's announcement that he planned to visit Indonesia in November - a trip twice postponed earlier this year. Obama spent part of his childhood in Indonesia but had failed to address the issue of West Papua with his Indonesian counterpart, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, prior to the visit.

Political awareness of West Papua's plight is, growing, however. On 22 September, the US House of Representatives conducted an open hearing entitled Crimes against humanity: when will Indonesia's military be held accountable for deliberate and systematic abuses in West Papua? …

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