On 14th November 2022, the public prosecutor in the Isak Sattu case demanded he be given a ten years sentence for his actions during the Paniai Shootings in December 2014.
At this stage, it is important to analyse some of the revelations that have come out of the trial, what light that has shed on the events, including within the framework of national and international law obligations and also to analyse the effectiveness of this process so far and advocate to ensure justice is found here and in future similar situations. This joint update is prepared by The Coalition of Civil Society for Monitoring of the 2014 Paniai Case.
Firstly, a quick summary of events. On 7th December 2014, some military personnel who were part of the Nabire 753/AVT Special Team allegedly beat and kicked 11 Papuan children in a Christmas decoration site on the road to the Enarotali town.
On the morning of 8th December 2014, hundreds of Papuans staged a protest against these events near the local military and police headquarters in the town of Enarotali in Paniai District, Papua Province. When protesters started throwing stones and pieces of wood at some state buildings, members of the security forces opened fire and attacked the crowd from different directions, killing four people (three from the shooting, one from being stabbed) and injuring dozens of others.
Trial So Far
Isak Sattu is a retired soldier who was the Liaison Officer for Paniai District Command at the time of the incident. He is being charged with violating:
Article 42 Clause 1 Section a and b and Article 7 Section b, Article 9 Section b and Article 37 of Law No. 26/2000 on Human Rights Courts. This refers to command responsibility during crimes against humanity in the form of killings, and has a minimal penalty of 10 years in jail and a maximum of the death penalty.
Article 42 Clause 1 Section a and b and Article 7 Section b, Article 9 Section h and Article 40 of Law No. 26/2000 on Human Rights Courts. This refers to command responsibility during crimes against humanity in the form of persecution and mistreatment, and has a minimal penalty of 10 years in jail and a maximum of 20 years in jail.
So, when the public prosecutor is asking for 10 years in jail as a sentence for his actions, this is the minimum allowed for by the law. Numerous reasons were given for this by the prosecutor: the defendant was cooperative in the trial process, law abiding, served the army for 37 years with no disciplinary procedures against him, he had received a medal of honour, was retired, served in a church, had a family and that he is already advanced in years.
Before the trial, three separate teams were set up to investigate the events. The Police team put the blame on the army personnel who were inside the District Military Command Office. President Jokowi ordered the Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs to set up a joint commission of the Police and Army to investigate, but this did not return any concrete results.
The Indonesian Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM) investigated the incident and determined that serious human rights violations had indeed occurred during the events in Paniai. The actors involved could be divided into four different groups: Those in command of creating army doctrine, those with effective command in the field, those who were actively involved and those who neglected to stop the incident. In total, 41 people were suspected of being involved in some way in the events, with 11 members of East Paniai Police and 11 members of the local District Army Command were directly involved. Unfortunately, under the Human Rights Court Law only the Attorney General can prosecute any alleged perpetrator and there is no mechanism to review its prosecutorial decision. This raises questions as to why the Attorney General only brought one suspect to the trial compared with at least 41 people suggested by the Komnas HAM’s recommendations.
For the trial itself, the Attorney General called 52 witnesses and experts for the trial. 29 were actually cross-examined: 10 police officers, 11 soldiers, 1 civil society witness, 1 member of the Paniai Indigenous Council and 6 experts. Four victims did not appear, but three of them had statements read out during the session. The defendant himself did not present any witnesses.
Six expert witnesses were called in to provide their testimony during the court proceedings:
Dr. Agus, Doctor at Paniai General Hospital
Dr. Wahyu Wibowo SH MH, Lecturer in Law at the Ahmad Yani University in Cimahi, Bandung, with a specialism in Military Law
Dr. Dwi Ajeng Wulan Kristianti S.H.LL, Lecturer at Padjadjaran University and expert in the field of International Law
High Commissioner Maruli Simanjuntak, Central Forensic Laboratory at Polri Headquarters
Imam Tri Handono PhD, Lecturer
Dr. K Sulaiman, SH,MH, Forensic Expert
Dr. Agus noted that on the 7th December, a patient in Accident & Emergency had a blunt force trauma, but was not hospitalised. On the 8th, the staff were prepared for there to be a lot of patients coming in. By 12pm, a total of 10 patients came in with various injuries, including seven who had been shot. One arrived and died in the hospital, whilst the other three had died at the demonstration. The autopsies had shown all had died from bullet wounds from afar, but it was not possible to see how far away they were shot from.
Dr Wahyu Wibowo explained that the Liaison Officer does not directly have troops under their command, but does have de facto authority to stop the shooting. The shootings themselves were not proportional, had no justification and were random, all in violation to both International Human Rights and Humanitarian Law.
He further remarked that police should have retained operational control of the situation, not the army, and that they had acted by omission by not carrying out their duties. The throwing of stones did not turn the civilians who threw them into “combatants''. The human rights violations could not be dealt with individually either, as comes about through structural and organised means, with command responsibility needing to be investigated.
He concluded with the following statements:
It is a systematic issue, as the designation of Paniai as a Troubled Area allowed the approach of the security forces to follow a certain policy and pattern which has been seen before.
It is a widespread issue, as there is a pattern of events of a similar nature that have taken place before, targeting civil society.
Command responsibility is both de jure and de facto, as those with higher ranks, such as Liaison Officers, can also give commands in the field, despite not holding de jure command over the troops.
Human Rights Court Cases charge more that one person usually: For Timor-Leste, there had been five charged, Abepura had two, Tanjung Priok had 12. The fact this case has only one is a cause of concern.
The testimony of Isak Sattu brought up the following points:
He was only a Liaison Officer with Paniai District Command for three months beforehand. He was located in the local District Army Command buildings.
He had no knowledge of the events of the 7th December.
He couldn’t get connected with the District Military Commander.
He did not see the shots being fired that originated from the local police station.
The soldiers took weapons on their own initiative without his command. He then only gave a command to shot to the sky, not at the crowds. Despite not having command in the situation, he did this as the ranking officer there at the time and on his own initiative.
Analysis and Recommendations
A number of elements of the process could be improved:
All of the following should be held to account for the incident:
- Those with effective de facto command in the field.
- Those with official de jure command
- Those who directly participated in the assault, shootings and stabbings
Victims' witness statements should be prioritised during the trial, before hearing from other witnesses. In fact, the non-arrival of victims to this trial should be addressed, and it should be compulsory that they be comfortable enough to participate in the process. They had not felt that the process would give them the justice they were seeking, like in the Abepura case.
Having a prosecutor there for the whole of the trial, instead of changing between sessions.
The direct participants should be the ones who are on trial first.
Human Rights Violations are not solved by the prosecution of only one participant.
The army command need to stop being involved in civil society space.
The possibility of the defendant being freed, especially also as perpertrators were being called in as witnesses, recalls what happened in the Abepura case. The Prosecutor must ensure further legal redress steps are put in place should this be necessary.
7th December 2022
The Coalition of Civil Society for Monitoring of the 2014 Paniai Case