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article imageHuman rights websites under cyber attack over Papua torture video

By Subir Ghosh     Nov 2, 2010 in Politics
Human rights organisations that posted on their websites clips of the shocking video of Indonesian soldiers torturing Papuan tribal people have been coming under heavy cyber attack.
On Tuesday, the Asian Human Rights Commission’s (AHRC) reported that its website has been subjected to a concerted “cyber-attack” since October 28. Computers with hidden locations and identities have been used to flood the website’s servers with fake requests, in order to overload it, the organisation said.
The follows close on the heels of tribal rights organisation Survival International reporting on Thursday about a similar attack. Starting with a test attack on Wednesday last, and building to a sophisticated "distributed denial-of-service" onslaught that evening, many thousands of PCs around the world simultaneously bombarded Survival’s website, knocking it offline.
Other organisations that hosted the torture video have also had their websites attacked. These included Friends of People Close To Nature, West Papua Media Alerts, West Papua Unite, Free West Papua Campaign, and West Papua Unite.
All clips have, since, disappeared from the Internet.
The attacks appear to have been in response to the posting of clips of video showing the ill-treatment and torture of indigenous Papuan persons by the Indonesian military. The 10-minute video showed two men speaking in the Lani dialect of Papua with their arms bound behind their backs, lying on a dirt road. They were surrounded by men in plainclothes carrying a weapon and communications equipment commonly used by Indonesian soldiers. The interrogators asked questions in the country's primary language, Bahasa Indonesia.
The incident was condemned worldwide, forcing the Indonesian government to admit that the men seen torturing two Papuans were its soldiers. The video was taken in the Tingginambut area near Puncak Jaya, Papua, on May 30 this year. The incident was believed to have been filmed on the mobile phone of one of the soldiers as a "trophy."
“This is not a simple hacker attack but a large-scale targeted operation involving significant resources on the attackers’ side," AHRC’s Executive Director, Wong Kai Shing, said. He said, “While it is impossible for us to identify the source of these attacks on our websites, as the attackers have taken measures to conceal their identities, we have serious concerns that the Indonesian authorities may have some role in this."
Survival’s Director Stephen Corry had reacted, "This isn’t a couple of geeks in a shed, it’s an expensive and sophisticated attack amounting to cyberterrorism. The damage to Survival International may be substantial but is of course nothing compared to that inflicted on West Papuan tribes or Botswana’s Bushmen. This is not just a local struggle for the survival of the few hundred remaining hunting Bushmen in Africa, or the more than one million oppressed tribespeople in Indonesian West Papua, it also epitomises the onslaught against those who dare to reject the domination of money and government over human rights. The forces ranged against us are colossal, and may have won this round, but we will never give up."
"The grotesque torture shown in this video demands an immediate and credible investigation, not the whitewash of an internal military investigation," Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch had said. "All those responsible for what appears to be a horrific crime need to be brought to justice, and the public needs to see that justice is done."
“The release of this video is the latest reminder that torture and other-ill-treatment in Indonesia often go unchecked and unpunished,” Donna Guest, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Deputy Director, had said. “We continue to receive regular reports about torture by members of the security forces. However, there are often no independent investigations, and those responsible are rarely brought to account before an independent court.”
Though the Indonesian government has admitted the incident, the concerted attacks aiming to silence the human rights organisations about this video add to concerns about a cover-up. "Attacks on the websites of human rights organizations such as the AHRC present a serious threat to freedom of expression in the internet and to the work of human rights defenders," said Wong.
The Indonesian army has a long history of human rights violations against the Papuan tribal people.
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