Indonesia apologises for 'excessive force' against deaf Papuan man


Tensions have long simmered between Indonesian security forces and the indigenous people of Papua, a remote and resource-rich region that was bought under Indonesian control after a controversial but UN-sanctioned vote in 1969. - AFP

JAKARTA (Reuters): The Indonesian government has apologised for the actions of two military officers it said used "excessive force" to pin down the head of a deaf, indigenous Papuan man after a video of the incident was widely shared online.

Tensions have long simmered between Indonesian security forces and the indigenous people of Papua, a remote and resource-rich region that was bought under Indonesian control after a controversial but UN-sanctioned vote in 1969.

The video, shot in the Papuan town of Merauke on Monday (July 26), shows an altercation between the man, Steven Yadohamang, and a food stall owner that was broken up by two uniformed air force officers.

The footage shows one officer forcing Yadohamang, hands behind his back, onto the pavement, while the other presses his head into the ground with his boot.

In a statement on Wednesday, presidential chief of staff Moeldoko said his office condemned what it characterised as "a form of excessive force and unlawful conduct".

The statement also said the Papuan man was unarmed, did not resist and had been identified as a person with a disability.

Indonesian Air Force spokesman Indan Gilang Buldansyah said the two officers would be tried in a military court.

In the past year, activists seeking to raise awareness of alleged rights abuses in Papua have said they were subject to online harassment.

Victor Mambor, a journalist in Papua said he was locked out of his Twitter account after posting a video of the Merauke incident. Twitter said his account had been compromised.

The footage, widely shared in Indonesia, has re-ignited allegations of racist treatment by Indonesian authorities towards Papuan people.

Human rights lawyer Veronica Koman drew a comparison between Yadohamang and African American George Floyd, whose death at the hands of a US police officer last year sparked worldwide protests.

"This is definitely not the first time this has happened. In 2016, West Papuan student Obby Kogoya also had his head stamped on by Indonesian security forces," she said.

"But the court found him guilty instead."

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