The Second Witness Examination Session of the Human Rights Court of the 2014 Paniai Incident: An Event for Cornering Civilians and Victims

Monday (3 October 2022) is the day of the third session of the 2014 Paniai Human Rights Court at the Makassar District Court. This is the second trial with the agenda of examining witnesses presented by the Public Prosecutor (JPU). On this occasion, the Public Prosecutor brought three witnesses who were similar to last week’s trial, only from the Police in the Paniai area when the incident occurred on 7 – 8 December 2014. This condition widened the gap in the narrative that has been circulating in the Court so far because it was only filled with the version of the state apparatus.

The trial, which presented Witness Petrus Gawe Boro (Head Police of  East Paniai), Witness Sukapdi (Head Operational of Paniai Police), and Witness Mansur (Head of Criminal Investigation Unit at Paniai Police), contained information that sought to lead to a narrative justification of what was done by the military and police when the incident occurred. This justification was raised by making statements about the situation of the mass action, even the behavior of the citizens, which of course, were irrelevant and could not be used as validation of the unmeasured actions that resulted in gross human rights violations in Paniai eight years ago.

The first narrative that was repeatedly reviewed was the allegation that gunfire from the mountains triggered mass mobilization to the Koramil Headquarters 1705-02/Enarotali. This is different from the information in the indictment, which states that the sound of gunfire came from the bottom of the road toward Karel Gobay Square. The statement, which according to the witnesses, came from the Wakapolres Paniai, also contained the allegation that the shots came from the Armed Criminal Group (KKB). However, when confirmed by the Panel of Judges, the witnesses testified that they did not meet with members of the KKB in the vicinity of the crime scene. The scrolling of this narrative should be considered an attempt to obscure the essential facts behind the events.

The second narrative that was put forward to obscure information from the incident was about the behavior of the residents in the incident on December 7, 2014, which was used as an excuse for abuse by members of the TNI. The group of young people, eleven of whom later became victims of abuse by members of the TNI Timsus Battalion 753/AVT, are narrated as perpetrators of forcibly soliciting donations and being in a drunken state due to consumption of alcoholic beverages. Information on requests for donations is not found in the Executive Summary of Serious Human Rights Violations published by Komnas HAM. In the document that summarizes the Komnas HAM Investigation Report, the group of young people who were preparing for the Christmas Memorial at that time only admonished the perpetrators to turn on their motorcycle lights and be careful on the road. The information on the request for donations is indeed contained in the indictment document. Still, it is not accompanied by additional information regarding the form of nominal coercion to the young man’s condition. If true, the conditions of the group of young people who are considered to be present in the incident cannot necessarily be used as a reason or justification for committing acts of persecution. Moreover, the testimony of the witness only suspected and did not directly see the incident of the request for donations which was allegedly carried out with violence. The witness only heard the statements of members of the TNI.

The third narrative is about the alleged violence carried out by the mass of action during a roadblock at Pondok Natal Gunung Merah or Karel Gobay Field. In the trial, it was revealed that the police chief of East Paniai Police and several members of the Paniai Police Chief of Police were lacking in handling the mass action. Unprofessionalism can be seen from the non-implementation of proportional provisions in dealing with mass actions as regulated in the Regulation of the National Police Chief Number 1 of 2009 concerning the Use of Force in Police Actions, the Regulation of the National Police Chief Number 8 of 2009 concerning the Implementation of Human Rights Principles and Standards in Carrying Out the Duties of the Republic of Indonesia National Police. Indonesia and the provisions contained in the Criminal Procedure Code (KUHAP). During the examination of Witness Mansur, it was also revealed that the legal process had stalled on several Police Reports (LP) on legal events such as the vandalism of the Police operational car and the attempted attack on Witness Sukapdi, which are also included in the chronology of the prosecution’s indictment. The facts of the series of claims of events that occurred, including the elements of the perpetrators and motives, are very worthy of being questioned. 

From the statements of these witnesses, the Police, which has the authority to secure mass demonstrations, did not take any measurable action based on the police regulations as mentioned above, the Police chose to step back to secure the police station and let the mass demonstrations end in chaos, throwing stones at offices after passing through Karel Square. Gobay. Thus, the Police allowed direct contact between the mass of action and the TNI, resulting in shootings, four fatalities, and at least ten injuries. Based on the Executive Summary of Serious Human Rights Violations, published by Komnas HAM, there is poor coordination between the TNI and Polri in Papua, the TNI in Papua is a form of assistance to the police. While the statements of the witnesses explained that the Police did not ask for assistance from the TNI and the police did not have command over security for the 2014 Paniai Incident, each agency only protected its area. In addition to failing to make the situation safe for the masses to action, the Police are also recorded by Komnas HAM as making efforts to obstruction of justice in this incident, which of course, also needs to be followed by the law enforcement process.

The cornering of civilians and victims of the Paniai incident, which has become one of the dominant discussions in the Court so far, can occur because the prosecutor failed to involve substantial participation from the public, especially witnesses from survivors and victims’ families as well as civilians. The public has the right to know the narrative from the other side, namely from survivors, victims’ families, and representatives of civilians regarding the 2014 Paniai Incident. With the current narrative situation, victims are again faced with injustices such as a bad stigma that is used as an excuse for the authorities to commit gross human rights violations. The Human Rights Court must be a space for the voices of victims and the public as well as the State to correct and evaluate state individuals and institutions so that they no longer produce human rights violations today and in the future.

October 3, 2022

2014 Paniai Monitoring Civil Society Coalition