JAKARTA: Indonesian police have apologised and pledged disciplinary action after officers draped a live snake around the neck of a suspect to persuade him to confess during an interrogation session in the easternmost area of Papua.
A video circulated online shows a man being questioned about stolen mobile phones. He was seated with his hands tethered behind his back yelling in distress as a snake is pushed towards his face by an officer.
The interrogator is heard laughing as the man screamed in fear.
Police revealed that the incident happened recently, during a crackdown on petty crime in Jayawijaya district, according to an Associated Press report on Monday (Feb 11).
The man, who can been seen writhing on the ground for much of the time is asked by an officer: "How may times have you stolen mobile phones?"
The suspect later responds by saying: "Only two times."
During the video, a voice can be heard ordering the man to open his eyes and at one stage threatens to put the snake into his mouth and under his trousers.
AP said police in Papua apologised for the incident. However, they also attempted to rationalise the officers’ actions by saying that the snake had not been venomous and that they had not beaten the man, who is a suspected thief.
The officers involved are being investigated for ethical violations, according to The Jakarta Post.
“We have taken action against the officers who did the misconduct. We are moving them to other places,” Jayawijaya Police chief Tonny Ananda Swadaya said, as quoted by the news outlet.
The video sparked criticism from netizens.
The interrogation methods employed by the officers were torture, human rights lawyer Victoria Koman was quoted by AP as saying. She shared the video on her Twitter account, saying that the “torture has features of racism”.
The police’s actions were a violation of police policies and several laws, she said.
She added that the video’s circulation forced a “very rare” apology out of the police, though she also criticised their attempt to justify the incident.
The incident was only the latest of many reports of snakes being used by police and military to terrorise Papuan detainees.
In January, Sam Lokon, a member of the West Papua National Committee that advocates for independence from Indonesia, was arrested. He was put in a cell with a snake and beaten, said Koman.