Nur Janti, Jakarta – The government has claimed that it has committed to human rights-violation resolution by pushing a tribunal over the "Bloody Paniai" case despite lack of evidence.
The Makassar Human Rights Court in Makassar, South Sulawesi, on Dec. 8 acquitted a retired Army officer in the fatal shooting of four teenagers in Papua in 2014, crushing hopes that the military would be held accountable for alleged abuses in the restive region.
Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Mahfud MD told reporters on Thursday that President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo had pushed for the trial to go ahead despite lack of evidence of gross-human rights violations.
"As we said before, the evidence prepared by [the National Commission on Human Rights] was not enough. The President had called me, [...] saying, 'Just bring it to the court even though it will lose,'" Mahfud said.
Mahfud said that the President's statement came before the court started in September, in a meeting with Mahfud and Attorney-General ST Burhanuddin to resolve the Bloody Paniai case.
Mahfud said Burhanuddin had not been sure about the evidence and had been worried that the perpetrator would be acquitted by the court. The President insisted on showing the government's commitment, he said.
"If we use our feelings, yes, it is a human-rights violation, but the court is the one that decided," Mahfud said. "It was not a gross-human rights violation. It is a crime, which has a different way to resolve."
The Makassar Human Rights Court ruled that Isak Sattu, the only accused on trial in relation to the case, was not guilty of "crimes against humanity". Isak, who was a liaison officer with the Paniai Military Command (Kodim) at the time of the incident, was cleared of all charges.
Two judges on the five-member bench dissented, saying that Isak was guilty for failing to stop the shooting as part of his duty.
The Bloody Paniai incident occurred in the regency on Dec. 8, 2014, when security forces opened fire on a crowd of demonstrators protesting the beating of a youth the previous day by members of the Indonesian Military (TNI). Five people, including four teenagers, were killed during the incident and 21 other civilians were injured.
Prosecutors, who alleged that Isak had failed in his command responsibility by not stopping his troops, had called for him to be jailed for 10 years.
The Attorney General's Office (AGO) investigated the case after Komnas HAM concluded in early 2020 that the Paniai tragedy was a "gross-human rights violation".
However, the AGO had repeatedly returned the preliminary investigation dossiers submitted by Komnas HAM citing incomplete administration.
Yones Douw, a lawyer and representative of the families of the victims, has said the trial was only held to "create a good image for Indonesia".
"Since the beginning of the trial, we rejected it because there was only one suspect and we just knew he would be freed," he told Reuters following the verdict.