Istimewa

Indonesia: Verdict in 2014 Paniai tragedy a ‘slap in the face’ for victims

Responding to the ruling of the Indonesian Human Rights Court to acquit a former member of the Indonesian Military (TNI), Isak Sattu, from charges of crimes against humanity of murder based on command responsibility in the 2014 Paniai atrocities in Papua, Indonesia, Amnesty International Indonesia executive director Usman Hamid said today:

“What we have witnessed today is a travesty of justice in the strongest possible terms. This verdict is yet another slap in the face not only for victims and families of victims of the Paniai shootings, but also for victims of other gross human rights violations in Indonesia who for years have demanded justice and accountability.”

“The ruling confirms all the doubts that victims and their families have cast over the legal proceedings; that the judicial process is just a ‘show trial’ that would not deliver genuine justice, truth, and redress.”

“The fact that authorities only brought to trial one military officer whose authorities to command soldiers on the ground was uncertain is questionable. In the first place, it is hard to believe that the defendant was the only military personnel responsible for the atrocities.”

“The defendant’s acquittal serves as a reminder that military officers suspected of criminal responsibility in the shootings, including the direct perpetrators and military commanders and other superiors who knowing that their forces were committing or were about to commit those atrocities, failed to take all measures within their powers to prevent or repress their commission, are still at large. Justice will never be served if impunity remains.”

“Indonesian authorities should promptly reopen the criminal investigation for Paniai shootings, so all persons suspected of criminal responsibility are promptly, effectively, thoroughly and impartially investigated and, if there is sufficient admissible evidence, prosecuted in fair trials before a criminal court.”

Background

On 8 December 2022, Indonesia’s Human Rights Court in Makassar, South Sulawesi Province, acquitted Isak Sattu, a former military officer, of all charges of crimes against humanity of murder based on command responsibility in the 2014 Paniai case in Papua Province. The defendant served as a liaison officer at the Military District Command (Kodim) in Paniai Regency during the time of the incident.

The Paniai Case covers two separate incidents in which the Indonesian security forces allegedly killed four individuals and injured 21 others in Paniai Regency on December 7 and 8, 2014.

In the verdict, the five-panel bench confirmed that the murders committed by military personnel against civilians in Paniai were “systematic attacks” and thus constituted crimes against humanity. However, the court argued that Isak, as a liaison officer, had no effective authority to command and control the forces when the shootings occurred on 8 December 2014. At that time, the court said, the command was still with the Commander of Enoratoli Sub-District Military Command’s (Koramil) Office even though he was not at the office when the incident happened.

Two of five judges in the panel gave dissenting opinions, arguing that the fact that the defendant was the highest-ranking military officer at the Enarotali Koramil’s Office implies that he could be held criminally responsible for his failure to take the necessary measures to oversee and to secure knowledge of the conduct of the troops, or to at least inform the violations to the higher office to be investigated.

Victims and families of victims of the 2014 Paniai case have previously criticized the legal proceeding, on the grounds that the Attorney General’s Office brought only one suspect to trial while no charges have been brought against high-ranking security officials and those suspected of being the direct perpetrators. They also refused to take part in the trial at the human rights court.