Subject: Spectre of military influence returns after court rulings

Also: Indonesia's Military Might Still Untamed; FEER/Timor Verdicts: Indonesia's Court Surprise; and JP Update: House rushes debate on truth and reconciliation commission bill

Radio Australia August 13, 2004 -transcript-

INDONESIA: Spectre of military influence returns after court rulings

Indonesian human rights activists have condemned a court decision clearing a top army general of gross human rights violations for his role in a 1984 military massacre. In the second case to be dealt with by the country's special human rights court, the head of Indonesia's elite Kopassus forces, Major General Sriyanto Muntarsan, has been acquitted of ordering the shootings of Muslim protestors at Tanjung Priok in north Jakarta.

Presenter/Interviewer: Marion MacGregor

Speakers: Asmara Nababan, Executive Director, the independent Institute for Human Rights and Democracy Studies; Dr Harold Crouch, Senior Fellow, Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, Australian National University

MACGREGOR: Major General Sriyanto was operations chief of the North Jakarta Military Command when his soldiers opened fire on a crowd of about fifteen hundred unarmed Muslims in the Jakarta district of Tanjung Priok, on the night of September the twelfth, 1984. Investigators say as many as twenty-four people died in the massacre and hundreds more were injured.

The Chief prosecutor Darmono demanded that General Sriyanto be jailed for ten years for ordering his troops to shoot into the crowd. But the panel of judges said the prosecution had failed to prove that any human rights abuses occurred that day. Asmara Nababan, Executive Director of the independent Institute for Human Rights and Democracy Studies, is disappointed, but not surprised by the verdict.

NABABAN: The acquittal of Sriyanto reflects the weakness of the judiciary system in Indonesia, especially in this case of the competence of the Attorney General as a prosecutor. It shows not only in the Tanjung Priok case but in the East Timor case, how they are not willing to provide material evidence and witnesses, which of course gives trouble for the judges to uphold the justice.

MACGREGOR: Earlier this week, the court cleared former Major General Pranowo, who headed Jakarta's military police in 1984, of failing to prevent the torture of Muslims during the Tanjung Priok massacre. The Muslim protesters were seeking the release of four people detained by the military under the rule of then-president Suharto. Asmara Nababan says little has changed since then.

NABABAN: Even though Suharto is no longer in power, the military position on political life in Indonesia is still intact. They are still a strategic power-holder in Indonesia which can easily influence the branches of the state like the executive and judiciary system.

MACGREGOR: Dr Harold Crouch, at the Australian National University's Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies agrees the post-Suharto administration has failed to deliver on promised reforms of the judicial system.

CROUCH: There was this feeling when the human rights courts were set up that the courts would be more independent or more able to give judgments that were not favourable to the military people accused. But it looks in fact what's happening is just the old system's continuing, The only difference I suppose, since Suharto fell is that these people are brought to court, and occasionally they're actually found guilty the first time around. So at least there's some sort of public humiliation for some of these people in the present system, but it's still far short of real justice.

MACGREGOR: The Tanjung Priok case is the second to come before Indonesia's human rights court. The first dealt with the 1999 carnage surrounding East Timor's vote to secede from Indonesia. So far the court's failed to uphold a conviction against a single member of Indonesia's security forces.

Indonesian human rights groups are now concerned about the prospect that foreign governments like Australia will use the not guilty rulings to push through plans to resume military training with the Kopassus. As he left the court, General Sriyanto declared he wants his units to take part in joint training exercises with Australia. Dr Harold Crouch again.

CROUCH: I would expect the Australian government's reaction to be to wait till his tour of duty has ended and he's moved on somewhere else. And then Australia might give some consideration to that. I don't find a problem with Australia co-operating with the Indonesian military in areas that are essentially defence, the problem with Kopassus is that its activities are basically internal security.

NABABAN: I think the Australian government should really reconsider to resume their co-operation with Kopassus. It will give the wrong message to the people of Indonesia that this Kopassus as a problematic institution in Indonesia, gets support from the government of Australia.

MACGREGOR: There's an argument though that Australia needs to co-operate with Kopassus or with the Indonesian elite forces to co-ordinate strategic, counter-terrorism and other activities in the region.

NABABAN: It's clear for me at least that the priority for the government of Australia is the war against terrorism and did not consider the human rights respect in Indonesia.

MACGREGOR: But it it's going to respect the rule of law in Indonesia, the judicial system which has just acquitted General Sriyanto, then it should be able to go ahead and do business with General Sriyanto...

NABABAN: I would not say that because concerning the Kopassus, they are a problematic institution in terms of human rights, not only in the case of Sriyanto, but for many years.

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Agence France Presse August 13, 2004

Indonesia's Military Might Still Untamed

By Ian Timberlake

Jakarta - A spate of acquittals absolving Indonesian military officers of human rights violations proves how powerful the armed forces remain in the country despite their claims to have abandoned politics, observers say.

From the days of strongman Gen. Suharto, who kept a potent military close at hand as he reshaped the country over three decades from the 1960s, the armed forces have never been far from the levers of control in Indonesia.

But this formidable power generated a dark side, with the military implicated in atrocities across the Southeast Asian nation as Jakarta asserted its authority.

The past few years have seen Indonesia's military appear to take a lower profile, drawing a line under the past and presenting themselves as servants of the people. But, say analysts, their strength has not waned and recent court rulings clearing senior officers of past misdemeanors are a sign they can still exert influence as Indonesia prepares to select its next leader.

Last month, human rights court convictions were overturned against four Indonesian security officers accused of violations during East Timor's 1999 bloody breakaway from Indonesia. Among those cleared was Maj. Gen. Adam Damiri, the highest-ranked officer charged in connection with the violence which left at least 1,400 dead.

The decision provoked sharp criticism from the US State Department which said it was "profoundly disappointed" by the verdicts that meant no Indonesian security officers charged over East Timor will serve time.

"This is the form military supremacy takes," said Hendardi, of the Indonesian Legal Aid and Human Rights Association. He said the verdicts reflect the pervasive military role in Indonesia's political and legal system. "This just proves they are strong.â€

In the latest acquittal, the human rights court in Jakarta yesterday cleared Maj. Gen. Sriyanto Muntarsan of gross human rights violations linked to killings that left at least 10 people dead in Jakarta's Tanjung Priok port area 20 years ago.

Muntarsan currently heads the army's Kopassus special forces.

Last Tuesday, the same court acquitted a retired general, Pranowo, of charges that he failed to stop his men torturing Muslim activists detained after the Priok shooting.

Hendari said the recent verdicts were part of the military's efforts to cleanse its reputation for abuse developed during the rule of Suharto, who stepped down in 1998.

"If they say they don't play politics anymore, it's just a slogan," he said.

Indonesian military and police officers still sit in the current People's Consultative Assembly, the country's highest constitutional body, although this is scheduled to be replaced by an elected body later this year.

But both at home and abroad the Indonesian military is taking visible steps to maintain influence, seeking to restore ties with the United States which were almost completely severed over events in East Timor, and take advantage of new legislation.

Controversy surrounds a military bill under consideration by Indonesia''s House of Representatives. Hendardi and Arbi Sanit, a University of Indonesia political science lecturer, fear it would strengthen the military's role.

Sanit says the bill would revive the military's Suharto era "dwi fungsi" or dual function role allowing soldiers to hold certain government posts. Soldiers are currently required to retire before joining the civilian structure.

The bill also confirms a "territorial" role of the military, giving the armed forces a countrywide presence.

"The territorial function is opposed by civil society because it creates a state within a state," Sanit said.

Armed forces spokesman Col. Ahmad Yani Basuki calls the bill "part of our reform commitment" and insists the military tries to be politically neutral.

"We no longer have the door to return to politics," he said.

Basuki said armed forces commander Gen. Endriartono Sutarto rejected invitations to be a vice presidential candidate, proof that the military intended to "permanently abandon its involvement in day-to-day politics".

Hendardi said military influence had been strong on civilian President Megawati Sukarnoputri and nothing would change if retired Gen. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono won when the two contest a Sept. 20 presidential vote.

"It's just the same," he said. "He is extremely tied up with military interests.â€

Sanit said the military was "riding a wind" that would blow even stronger with a Yudhoyono victory.

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Far Eastern Economic Review Issue cover-dated August 19, 2004

SPOTLIGHT

Jakarta's Court Surprise

By John McBeth

Western governments and human rights groups could not hide their anger following a decision by an Indonesian appeals court to overturn the convictions of four security officials implicated in the killing and destruction that accompanied East Timor's independence vote in 1999.

The ruling means that out of 18 Indonesian nationals tried for involvement in the blood-letting, only two people have been convicted. Both of them are ethnic Timorese who received sentences below the 10-year minimum set by Indonesian law. The appeals court halved the sentence of one of them--former militia leader Eurico Guterres--to five years.

The acquittal of Maj.-Gen. Adam Damiri, the highest-ranking officer to face trial, former East Timor commander Col. Nur Muis, ex-police chief Hulman Gultom and army Lt.-Col. Soedjarwo, has already led to calls for the convening of a United Nations tribunal to bring those responsible for the violence to justice.

The ruling could also undermine efforts by the administration of United States President George W. Bush to restore military-to-military relations with Indonesia.

U.S. State Department spokesman Adam Ereli joined the chorus of criticism over the acquittals. "We are dismayed by this decision, and we are profoundly disappointed with the performance and record of the Indonesian ad hoc [human rights] tribunal," he said.

But East Timor argued against setting up an international tribunal, saying it would harm improving ties with Indonesia.

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The Jakarta Post Saturday, August 14, 2004

House rushes debate on truth and reconciliation commission bill

JAKARTA: The House of Representatives committee deliberating the truth and reconciliation commission bill has intensified its deliberation and pledged to finish it in the upcoming session.

M. Akil Mochtar, the committee's deputy chairman, said on Friday his team was now working on the wording of the bill.

The military/police faction had earlier demanded that the bill focus on reconciliation, rather than the truth.

The bill is designed to settle gross human rights abuses that occurred before the law on the human rights tribunal was endorsed in 2000.

Atrocities that occurred before 2000 will be settled through a reconciliation forum.


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