The Human Rights Court for the Paniai Incident: Further Evidence from a Powerless State Against Human Rights Criminals

In the spirit of solidarity with the survivors and families of the victims of the 2014 Paniai Incident, and amid sorrow over the death of Yosef Youw (father of the late Alpius Youw – the victim who died in the incident), the 2014 Paniai Monitoring Coalition considers an acquittal against a single Defendant (Mayor Inf Purn) Isak Sattu at the Human Rights Court for the Paniai Incident that took place at the Makassar District Court is proof that the State does nothing against human rights criminals in Indonesia. The acquittal that was read out by the Panel of Judges coincided with the 8th anniversary of this event and was the result of the poor performance of law enforcement in resolving gross human rights violations in Indonesia. Even though the events that took place on 7 – 8 December 2014 met the elements of crimes against humanity as gross human rights violations in the form of murder and torture, the State has never revealed the perpetrators. The Human Rights Court for the Paniai Incident acquitted the defendant because the charges regarding command responsibility were not proven to be attached to the defendant. None of the perpetrators has been punished for the incident that killed at least 4 people and left at least 10 injured.

Evidence of the state’s incompetence in enforcing the law, in this case, can already be seen since the failure of several teams created to resolve it. The case, which the Attorney General’s Office finally investigated as a gross violation of human rights in December 2021, was processed with many irregularities. As the 2014 Paniai Monitoring Coalition has stated, the Attorney General’s Office investigation has been going very badly since the process began. The thing that most deserves to be highlighted is the minimal involvement of survivors and victims’ families, even though from the initial moment of the incident, they proactively provided information and evidence to support the legal process. The protracted follow-up by law enforcement officials resulted in further injustice and disappointment for the survivors and the victims’ families. Until the Human Rights Court for the Paniai Incident at first instance ended, only two survivors whose statements were present at the court, and both were only in the form of readings. The narrative of the apparatus dominated this trial, and statements from the side of the alleged perpetrators were unequal.

The performance of the Attorney General’s Office through investigations to the Public Prosecution Team, which in the end only brought on one defendant’s name, is highly questionable. Moreover, the defendant was previously subject to command responsibility in Article 42 of Law 26/2000 concerning the Human Rights Court without any legal process concurrent with the field actors. Through examining witnesses at trial, several strong allegations were revealed regarding the names of the executors who killed and abused the victims. If investigations and prosecutions do not follow up on this valuable information, the Attorney General’s side deserves our concern.

The unpreparedness of the Human Rights Court for the Paniai Incident can also be seen from its preparation and implementation. The search process for the Panel of Judges, which also consisted of ad-hoc judges, was noted to have yet to proceed with quality. The lack of exploration from the Panel of Judges and technical problems during the trial should also be noted. The Human Rights Court for the Paniai Incident seemed unprepared to carry out proceedings on legal events as necessary as crimes against humanity.

By having the facts of the trial and court decisions, the Government must take them seriously. For the record, the Paniai Incident is a gross human rights violation that occurred during the ongoing administration under President Joko Widodo. Poor processes and results can undoubtedly be considered the quality and capacity of governance today. History will record all the records of the process.

Regarding the various bad records in the Human Rights Court for the Paniai Incident, we state:

  1. The President must evaluate the performance of the Attorney General’s Office.
  2. The Attorney General’s Office must follow up on the facts of the trial and hold further legal action. Either against the defendant who was acquitted or by bringing other actors at the direct or command level to court.
  3. National Human Rights Commission, the Witness and Victim Protection Agency, and the Attorney General’s Office must involve and recover the survivors and families of the victims of the Paniai Incident.


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Makassar Legal Aid Institute
Indonesia Legal Aid Foundation
Amnesty International Indonesia
Democracy Alliance for Papua
Papua Church Council