Indonesian soldiers who tortured two Papuan farmers have been sentenced for a much lesser crime

Three soldiers in Indonesia who have been caught on camera torturing Papuan farmers have been given jail sentences after being convicted of "insubordination", a much lesser crime than the rights groups and activists have demanded for.

According to a ruling by a military court, which heard the case on Monday, two of the soldiers have been jailed for 10 months, and  the third for nine months.

The case has attracted international attention after amateur footage of the incident appeared on the internet. 

United States, Australia and international human rights groups have been exerting pressure on Indonesia to take appropriate action against the three soldiers. The trial came about after the increased international pressure.

Still, authorities fall far short of the punishment sought by rights activists. Prosecutors claimed that they could not bring more serious charges against the men as the court lacked sufficient evidence.

Step Vaessen, Al Jazeera's correspondent reporting from the capital Jakarta said that " the prosecutors had only asked for sentences of up to one year for insubordination, which is not following orders."

"So these people were not even on trial for torture as that is not dealt with by military courts," she said.

'No justice for Papuans'

Initially the Indonesian military claimed that the accused soldiers had bee prosecuted for the attack but later admitted that they were referring to a different case.

"For the Papuan people, this is again evidence that there is no justice for them."

For the last 30 years, Papuan people have felt that they have been treated as second-class citizens in their own country by the Indonesian authorities.

Papuan people are disappointed with the short prison sentences handed for the Indonesian soldiers, who have been shown in the video footage to have committeed quite a severe torture.

In the YouTube video, Indonesian soldiers can be seen burning a Papuan man's genitals with sticks, then hoodwinking him with platic bag before he was threatened to be killed. The soldiers then cover him with food so flies would cover his body.

The man's ordeal lasted three days, which has been dimissed by the Indonesian president himself as a minor incident.

However, so far the president has been seen as a champion of democracy, "at least that is how he has presented himself for the last couple of years", our correspondent said.

But now that he has called this torture episode a minor incident, many people are shocked and "they are questioning the president's democratic credentials at the moment".

"Also groups like the Human Rights Watch say this is very disappointing. It is a setback for Indonesia which was supposed to be reforming the military, get rid of their impunity of the military who are committing human rights violations," our correspondent added.

Human rights activists say this case should not have been dealt with by the miltary as it is not independent.

"They say that it should have been heard by a civilian court, a human rights tribunal basically. And this has hurt many Papuans," al Jazeera's Vaessen said. 

Source: Al Jazeera