Police in Indonesia’s Papua province have apologised after interrogators used a snake in an attempt to extract a confession from a suspected mobile phone thief, a police chief 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 was heard asking the suspect, “How many times have you stolen a cellphone?”.
The man cringed and screamed in fear.
The local police chief Tonny Ananda Swadaya said it was unprofessional but defended the practice, saying the snake was tame and non venomous.
“The method is wrong and we have apologised,” adding that the officers had been disciplined.
He disclosed that the snake 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 human rights lawyer 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.