Exclusive: Australia is seeking to strengthen ties with Indonesia, despite new reports of brutality by the military — including the torture and murder of civilians — in West Papua


The body of 17-year-old Wity Unue was brought back by the Indonesian military in a box, witnesses say. When soldiers couldn’t find his family, they burned the cardboard coffin, with his body inside, in a clearing at the end of a road in the remote highlands of West Papua.

The high school student – a promising musician and songwriter – had been tortured and burned to death.


His parents, who had recently fled a military crackdown in fear for their lives, were shocked and devastated when they found out, says Raga Kogeya, a West Papuan human rights activist.

Kogeya says that days earlier, on 7 April this year, Wity had been interrogated and detained along with three other boys and two young men under suspicion of being part of the troubled region’s rebel army. They were taken by special forces soldiers who rampaged through the West Papuan village of Kuyawage, burning down houses and a church and terrorising locals.

Transported by helicopter to the regional military headquarters 100km away, the group were beaten and burnt so badly by their captors that they no longer looked human.

Kogeya says Wity died a painful death in custody. The other five were only released after human rights advocates tipped off the local media.

“The kids had all been tortured and they’d been tied up and then burned,” says Kogeya, who saw the surviving boys’ injuries first-hand on the day of their release.

“[The military] had heated up machetes and knives and pressed it against their skin … They didn’t even look like humans. They were burnt from head to toe. They were in a really bad way.”

Read more