Indonesian police have acknowledged officers terrorised a Papuan man with a live snake after a video of the incident circulated online.
Police in Indonesia’s easternmost Papua region apologised but also attempted to justify the officers’ actions by saying the snake was not venomous and that they had not resorted to beating the man, who was suspected of theft.
Human rights lawyer Veronica Koman said the interrogation methods were torture and violated police policies as well as several laws.
She said it was only the latest of several reports of police and military using snakes to terrorise Papuan detainees and symptomatic of a culture of racism against indigenous Papuans.
Sam Lokon, a member of the West Papua National Committee, which advocates for independence from Indonesia, was put in a cell with a snake and also beaten after being arrested in January, Ms Koman said.
Police indicated the incident with the alleged thief happened recently, during a crackdown on petty crime in Jayawijaya district.
The spread of the video, which shows the man screaming in fear and his interrogator laughing, had forced police into a “very rare” apology, Ms Koman said, while also criticising the attempt to provide a justification.
The one minute and 20 second video shows the dark brown snake, at least two metres long, wrapped around the handcuffed suspect’s neck and waist and an officer pushing its head into the man’s face as he becomes increasingly hysterical.
Officers appear to be asking how many times he had stolen mobile phones.
Jayawijaya police chief Tonny Ananda Swadaya said in a statement the officers had been disciplined by being given ethics training and moved to other locations.
Papua province’s police spokesman said the officers involved are being questioned by an internal affairs division of the national police.