Police officers in Papua, Indonesia are in hot water after a video surfaced online of detectives using a snake to scare a robbery suspect during an interrogation. The video shows the suspect sitting on the floor against a wall with his hands tied behind his back. A police officer drapes a large snake over the man’s shoulders while holding the head of the snake up to the suspect’s face.
Ternyata penggunaan ular untuk interogasi orang Papua yang ditangkap cukup marak. Terakhir yang diketahui adalah terhadap Sam Lokon anggota KNPB. Video ini kabarnya di Wamena.
Snakes are reported being used against West Papuans for interrogation. pic.twitter.com/Rf72r9oJMO
— Veronica Koman (@VeronicaKoman) February 8, 2019
In the video, the detectives begin to question the suspect about stealing cellular phones. The suspect admits to taking the phones “two times,” according to Reuters. Throughout the interrogation, the suspect cries while he attempts to move away from the snake. The officer also threatened to place the snake in the suspect’s “mouth and under his trousers.”
Tonny Ananda Swadaya, the police chief in Jayawijaya, released a statement of apology for the officers’ actions and stated the detective in question is now under investigation. “We have taken stern action against the personnel,” said Swadaya, who also pointed out the suspect was not injured in the interrogation. According to a report from the Sydney Morning Herald, the snake used in the video was “nonvenomous.”
“We apologize for the incident,” said a police spokesman. “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.”
Although using a snake as an interrogation tactic is bizarre, this incident may not have been the first time the reptile has been used for such means. According to a report from the BBC, Veronica Koman, a human rights lawyer who published the video on Twitter, claims that at least one of her clients faced a similar interrogation while in jail.
Further complicating the issue for Papua police is the “pro-independence” movement in the region which has been active since the 1970s. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, both military and law enforcement personnel are cracking down on pro-independence supporters in the wake of an attack by a group of anti-government rebels against a construction site, which resulted in the killing of 19 people late last year. Koman’s client, who claimed to have also suffered a snake-assisted interrogation, was reportedly also a pro-independence supporter. According to Reuters, Papau police claim to have no information about any other similar incidents.