Government claims Jokowi pushed for Paniai rights trial despite 'lack of evidence'

Detik News – December 15, 2022
Mahfud (centre) flanked by Presidential Staff Head Moeldoko and Attorney General Burhanuddin – December 14, 2022 (Antara)

Kadek Melda Luxiana, Jakarta – The sole defendant in the Paniai gross human rights violation case trial being heard in the Makassar District Court in South Sulawesi, retired Infantry Major Isak Sattu, has been found not guilty.

Coordinating Minister for Security, Politics and Legal Affairs (Menko Polhukam) Mahfud MD has related how it was President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo who asked that the case be taken to court.

"What about Paniai, why did the court rule he was free? Remember, right, we said that the data provide by Komnas HAM [the National Human Rights Commission] was inadequate, but at the time the Pak [Mr] President summoned me, 'Pak Menko, every Human Rights Day Komnas HAM always gives a speech about taking gross human rights cases to the courts, why haven't they been taken [to court]'", said Mahfud imitating Widodo's remarks during a Menko Polhukam end of year report presentation at the Coordinating Ministry for Security, Politics and Legal Affairs in Jakarta on Thursday December 15.

Mahfud then explained that Attorney General ST Burhanuddin responded by saying there was not enough evidence to declare the case a gross human rights violation. He then alluded to the East Timor cases in 2002 where out of the 34 people tried only two were found guilty and sentenced, but they were then released after submitting an appeal (PK).

"The Pak Attorney General said, 'Pak, there isn't any evidence, it's only a declaration that a human right violation occurred here, a review found it didn't meet the requirements, there are no autopsies, the victims are unclear, who are the perpetrators, so if it's taken [to court] it'll lose. Like, oh yeah, like the cases in East Timor where 34 people were released, only two were sentenced, [pro-integration militia leader Eurico] Guterres, Guterres and one other, but after Guterres and his comrades submitted a PK they were all released'", said Mahfud imitating Burhanuddin.

Mahfud said if evaluated based on feelings, the Paniai case was a human rights violation. He said that Widodo was firm that he wanted the Paniai case to be taken to trial because he truly wanted to pursue Komnas HAM's recommendations even if in the end the defendant might be released.

"I know in terms of feelings it was truly a human rights violation, but it's up to the court to decide, right, so in the end the President said enough, take it to court even though, the Attorney General said 'But Pak, why if you already know it'll lose in court'. No, not if we truly implement Komnas HAM's recommendations", he said.

"So, we tied four, arranged four, Wasior, Wamena, Paniai, it was arranged, but it was very difficult to connect the facts together, very difficult, so in the end, yeah, just one, Paniai, was taken to court, and [the defendant] was released", he continued referring to the 2001 Wasior and 2003 Wamena incidents in Papua.

Furthermore, Mahfud said that the Paniai case was not a gross human rights violation but a crime.

"It wasn't a gross human rights violation, it was a crime, there's a different way to resolve [crimes], sometime you don't know the difference between a serious violation and gross human rights violations, even though they're both legal terms", he added.

Paniai defendant released

The Makassar District Court released Isak Sattu, the former Paniai/1705 District Military Command (Kodim) liaison officer who had been indicted on charges of committing gross human rights violations during the Paniai incident.

As reported by Detik Sulsel (South Sulawesi), on Thursday December 8 the panel of judges ruled that Sattu was found not guilty of the indictment as laid out by the public prosecutor on Wednesday September 21 and that all of the defendant's rights be restored.

"The defendant is released from all of the public prosecutor's charges", said presiding judge Sutisno in the ruling.

"[We] declare that the defendant retired Infantry Major Isak Sattu as cited above has not been proven legally and convincingly guilty of committing gross human rights violations as laid out in the first and second indictments", added Sutisno.

The public prosecutor had charged that Sattu was responsible for the bloody Paniai tragedy in front of the Enarotali/1705-02 Sub-District Military Command (Koramil) on Monday December 8, 2014. The incident resulted in four people being shot dead and 10 others suffering injuries.

"[The prosecution] demands that the court's panel of judges in the Human Rights Court in the Makassar Class IA Court who are examining and trying this case rule and hand down a sentence of 10 years in prison against retired Infantry Major Isak Sattu", said the public prosecutor at the Makassar District Court on Monday November 14. (dek/jbr)

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Mahfud Cerita Jokowi Minta Kasus HAM Berat Paniai Dibawa ke Pengadilan".]