Police in Indonesia have apologized after a viral video showed some of their men using a two-meter-long live snake to interrogate a suspect.
The police in Papua’s Jayawijaya district, Indonesia, issued a public apology after a video showing an alleged thief being interrogated by security forces using a two-meter live snake went viral online.
The action drew serious condemnation from Human rights advocates in Indonesia, who were not happy with the use of a live snake during the interrogation of an alleged thief in Western New Guinea.
In a video doing the rounds on social media, a barefoot, handcuffed man can be seen squirming and screaming as police officers push a live snake in his face and threaten to put in his mouth and in his pants. Later, the reptile is also seen wrapped around the suspect’s neck, as police try to get a confession out of him about some stolen phones.
“How many times have you stolen a mobile phone?” a police officer can be heard shouting at the alleged thief, to which the terrified man answers “Only two times”.
Local police chief Tonny Ananda Swadaya recently issued a public statement, apologizing for the use of the snake during the interrogation, but also pointing out that the media was making too big a deal out of the incident, as the snake wasn’t poisonous and the suspect was never in any real danger.
“The snake was tame and not poisonous or dangerous, and the incident was their own idea so they could get admission of guilt as quick as possible,” Swadaya said. “We will work more professionally in the future.”
“We apologize for the incident,” a police spokesperson told local reporters. “Institutionally we do not recognize such an unprofessional method of interrogation, and we guarantee that such an inhuman method will not happen again in the future.”
Indonesian security forces have been repeatedly accused of using excessive force and committing rights abuses against Papua’s ethnic Melanesian population, including extrajudicial killings of activists and peaceful protesters.
Human rights lawyer Veronica Koman said the video confirmed what some jailed Papuan activists have reported in the past.
“They have long known that snakes are being used by police and the military (in interrogations),” she said.
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, Koman said on Twitter.
Papua, one of Indonesia’s poorest region, has seen several spasms of violence over the past year, including in December when at least 16 employees of a state-owned company – who were building bridges in a major infrastructure push for the impoverished region – were killed by separatist rebels.