Police in Indonesia’s Papua province have apologised after interrogators used a snake during an attempt to extract a confession from a suspected mobile phone thief, a spokesman said on Monday.
A video circulating online showed police in Jayawijaya district wrapping a snake around the neck of the suspect as they questioned him.
A policeman could be heard asking the suspect, “How many times have you stolen a cellphone?”.
The man cowered and screamed in fear.
“Many people saw his action but he didn’t confess, and that made the officer angry,” Papuan Police spokesman, Suryadi Diaz, said.
“The method is wrong and we have apologised,” he said, adding that one officer had been disciplined.
Diaz said the snake was tame and had been kept as a pet at the Jayawijaya police station for some time to scare drunkards, who often caused trouble in the neighbourhood.
“They usually fled after they saw the snake,” he said.
A lawyer, who advocates for human rights in Papua, Veronica Koman, said police often used snakes while interrogating Papuans, including those arrested for suspected separatist activities.
“Inhumane treatment against Papuans is regularly reported,” Koman said.
“When this snake video surfaced, many Papuans, particularly activists, who have been in and out of jail for political reasons, said that they have long known that snakes are being used by police and military,” she said.
A low-level separatist conflict has been taking place in Papua, a predominantly-Melanesian region, since the 1960s.
Security forces have been accused of human rights abuses while conducting counter-insurgency operations.