Subject: Rape and Killing Not Rights Abuses: Indonesian Military Legal Chief

Rape and killing not rights abuses: Indonesian military legal chief

JAKARTA, Nov 13 (AFP) - The Indonesian army's legal chief said rape and killing should not be classified as human rights violations and is calling for soldiers accused of rights abuses to be tried in military courts, according to reports here Saturday.

Major General Timor Manurung, who heads the military's legal department, said a clear definition of what constituted human rights abuses needed to be hammered before any cases were heard.

"If a member of TNI (Indonesian Armed Forces) kills or rapes it does not directly come under the category of human rights violation, but general crimes and therefore there should be a clear and firm image of what consists a human rights violation," Manurung was quoted as saying by the Media Indonesia daily.

Manurung also called for any rights cases to be tried in a military tribunal instead of a civilian court.

"Because members of the TNI (the Indonesian Armed Forces) are some sort of officials of the state, those who violate the law should be tried by a military tribunal," Manurung told the paper

There has been growing pressure for the military to account for its record of violence and human rights violations, especially in the troubled province of Aceh where separatists have demanded the punishment of soldiers guilty of brutal repression.

The Indonesian military has been accused of widespread human rights violations during a 10-year campaign to crush the separatist movement which was only called off last year. More than 2,000 people are believed to have been killed.

Despite the end of operations, the province has continued to be wracked by violence with some 300 people killed since May.

An independent commission probing atrocities in Aceh has said it had names of active and retired officers involved in human rights violations and that the dossiers of five main cases had been forwarded to the attorney general.

The commission has also called for the setting up of a special tribunal to hear the cases.

Jakarta has said the first trials hearing allegations of human rights violations in Aceh were expected to open next week.

Military Spokesman Major General Sudrajat (Eds: one name) said that anywhere in the world, soldiers are court martialled and not judged in a civilian court.

"Military laws are harsher than civilian laws," Sudrajat said, according to deticom, an online news service..

Manurung said the use of military tribunals "is not intended to lighten the sentences or make soldiers immune from the law."

"It is not also intended to freeze cases of law violations involving members of the TNI," he said.

A number of soldiers have been court martialled for past violence, including incidents in Aceh, but their sentences have been far more lenient than those meted out by civilian courts for similar crimes.

Human rights activists have also said that so far, only footsoldiers and lower officers have been court martialled over the violence and that the higher echelons have always escaped unharmed.

But Sudrajat was quoted by the Kompas daily as saying that higher officers could only be brought to court if there were clear indications that the violations by the soldiers were made under their direct instructions.

"If for example, a soldier kills someone, he should be punished for the deed and not his commander, unless it was done at the order of the commander," Sudrajat said.


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