INDONESIA: A 72-year-old man and his son sentenced to death penalty on fabricated charges


Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAC-093-2013
ISSUES: Administration of justice, Death penalty, Independence of judges & lawyers, Judicial system, Right to fair trial, Right to remedy, Torture,

Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information from a local NGO, the Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence (KontraS), regarding the fabrication of charges and torture committed by the police against a 72-year old man and his two sons. The innocent men were falsely charged, tried and sentenced to death over a murder case.


According to the information gathered by KontraS, Ruben Pata Sambo and his two sons, Markus Pata Sambo and Martinus Pata, were convicted for the murder of a family in Tana Toraja, South Sulawesi, in December 2005. The Makale District Court handed down the death penalty for Ruben and Markus in 2006 which was later reaffirmed by the High Court as well as the Supreme Court. Ruben and Markus are still detained in two separate correctional facilities: Ruben is being held in the Class 1 Lowokwaru Correctional Facility, Malang, while Markus his son is being imprisoned in Medaeng Correctional Facility, both are located in, East Java. The other convicted, Martinus, was sentenced to imprisonment for 6 years and is currently free from custody for having served the punishment.

There has been a strong allegation that Ruben and his two sons are the victims of a fabricated case. According to the Ruben’s daughter, Yuliani Anni, the police did not produce any warrant when they arrested her father. The allegation that the case against Ruben and his sons is a fabricated one is based on the facts that the witnesses presented during the proceedings at Makale District Court were under threat when they claimed that it was Ruben and his sons who committed the crime. Ruben has also testified that he and his sons were subjected to torture by police officials during their interrogation. They were forced to sign a statement, the contents they had no knowledge of; they were stripped naked; and Ruben’s hand which was broken at that time due to the repeated beatings by the police officers. The allegation on fabrication of charges against them became more apparent when the real perpetrators of the murder came out and made a statement on 30 November 2006 that Ruben and his two sons were not involved in the murder.

In 2008, the victims submitted a final appeal to the Supreme Court yet their request was dismissed on 7 September 2009. The panel consisted of the Honourable H Dirwoto, M Hatta Ali and Jamal Djafni. In a judgement numbered 79 PK/Pid/2008, the judges declared that the new evidence presented by Ruben and his sons was inadmissible and along with several other reasons the applicant’s request was dismissed.

A final appeal is an extraordinary legal remedy that could be filed by a convicted or her/his family to the Supreme Court. In accordance with Article 264 (2) of Law No. 8 Year 1981 on Criminal Procedure Code, one of essential requirements for the application of such appeal is the availability of new evidence. A final appeal is the last legal remedy a convicted can pursue in the criminal proceeding and under the law it may only be applied once. For this reason, in the context of the case of Ruben and his sons, there should be an alternative legal remedy granted to them which can lead to their acquittal even though they have exhausted the final appeal mechanism.

Responding to the claims made by Ruben and his sons, on 15 June 2013 the South Sulawesi and West Sulawesi Regional Police denied the allegations of torture and fabrication of charges. They insisted that, along with his sons and Edi Budianto, Ruben was planning the murder at his house on 21 December 2005.

The Coordinator of KontraS, Mr. Haris Azhar met with the Attorney General to discuss this case on 20 June 2013. In the meeting, KontraS requested the Attorney General to exclude Ruben and his son from the list of convicted to be executed this year. Responding to such request, the Attorney General has postponed the execution of Ruben and his son. In addition to that the Attorney General has promised to hold a meeting with the Supreme Court to discuss this issue.


The right not to be tortured is a human right that cannot be derogated or restricted by anyone under any circumstances. The act of torture carried out by the police in this case to obtain confessions from Ruben is therefore a violation of human rights. In addition to that, it violates the Regulation of the Chief of the Indonesian National Police No. 8 Year 2009 on the implementation of the principles and standards of human rights in police duties as well as the UN Convention against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (UN CAT) which was ratified by the Indonesian Government 15 years ago.

The obligation to prevent and protect individuals from torture is not only the obligation of the police but also prosecutors and judges. Article 15 of UN CAT establishes that, “Each State Party shall ensure that any statement which is established to have been made as a result of torture shall not be invoked as evidence in any proceedings, except against a person accused of torture as evidence that the statement was made”.

The prosecutors working on the case against Ruben had violated Article 8 (3) of Law No. 16 Year 2004 which one of articles establishes that, “for the sake of justice and righteousness upon the divinity of the one true God, the prosecutor conducts the prosecution with a conviction based on valid evidence”. As for the judges who have convicted Ruben and his sons and handed down punishment to them, they have violated Article 6 (2) of Law No. 48 Year 2009 which establishes that the judges should not punish anyone unless -based on legitimate evidence- they are convinced that the suspect is guilty for the crime accused. In addition to that, the criminal proceedings against Ruben and his sons which include their arrest, investigation and the handing down of verdict by the judges are not in accordance with provisions under the Criminal Procedure Code.

Apart from that, the death penalty imposed to Ruben and one of his sons is violating the right to life which cannot be reduced under any circumstances, as stipulated under Article 4 of Law No. 39 Year 1999 on human rights. Indonesia has also ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which one of articles declares: “Every human being has the inherent right to life. This right shall be protected by law. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life”.

Fabrication of charges by law enforcement officials is nothing new for Indonesia. In 1974, Sengkon and Karta were sentenced to 12 year imprisonment for committing murder. After they had been serving the punishment for 5 years, it was revealed that the perpetrator of the murder was someone else. In 2002, Budi Harjono was forced by the police to confess that he had killed his own father. He was convicted and sentenced to punishment but it was revealed a year later that he was not guilty. These two are only examples of fabrication of charges cases which had been exposed to the public.


Based on the above, please urge the relevant parties below to take the following measures:
1. President of Republic of Indonesia and the Minister of Law and Human Rights – to facilitate and encourage the alternative solution for the release of Ruben and his son;
2. Chief of the Indonesian National Police – to conduct criminal legal proceedings against members of the police who have committed torture and fabrication of charges against Ruben and his sons;
3. National Police Commission – to evaluate the performance and professionalism of police officers who have been involved in the torture and fabrication of charges against Ruben and his sons;
4. State Attorney Commission – to evaluate the performance of the prosecutors who prosecuted Ruben and his sons despite the lack of evidence;
5. Judicial Commission – to investigate the judges in Makale District Court, High court of Makassar, as well as the Supreme Court for irregularities took place during the proceeding which led to the baseless conviction and punishment of Ruben and his sons;
6. Chairperson of National Human Rights Commission – to investigate the torture and fabrication of charges allegations as well as to push the relevant authorities to take measures as suggested above.

Please also write to the Indonesia Consulate or Embassy in your area or country on this case whilst the AHRC writes separately to the UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers and the UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.