Subject: Does war on terror benefit only the Indonesian military, or the nation?


Jakarta Post

January 05, 2006

Does war on terror benefits only the military, or the nation?

Tiarma Siboro, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Despite the precious little progress the Indonesian Military (TNI) has achieved in the area of internal reform, it has does have something to be proud this year: the lifting of the arms embargo by the United States.

The U.S. decision last November was linked to George W. Bush's global war on terror. It came after President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono met Bush and ordered the TNI to actively assist National Police in fighting terrorism.

It was clear however that the lifting of the 14-year embargo on arms sales to Indonesia had nothing to do with the TNI's achievement in boosting its track record in human rights issues.

Aside from that, some analysts believe the decision might have been a U.S. move to prevent Indonesia from seeking military supplies from other countries, especially Russia.

The arms ban was imposed in 1991 after TNI soldiers shot dead hundreds of mourners in Timor Leste (formerly East Timor). It was extended due to human rights violations linked to the military-backed militia rampage also in East Timor after the 1999 autonomy plebiscite.

The involvement of soldiers in the national campaign against terror has raised strong criticism from human rights activists and others, who said the government should have instead further empowered the police to handle such matters.

A retired police general says that "certain forces" within the military institution have close ties with radical Muslim groups, including the Islam Defender's Front (FPI) and Laskar Jihad.

"This fact is part of the reason why the government involved the military in the domestic war to crack down on terrorist cells," he added.

Another reason was power. The government had been warned to be cautious in attempting to strip power from the military, otherwise it could create social disturbances in retaliation.

"We should not keep cornering the military because they will not stop playing terror games until they can seize back power," said the police general.

President Susilo issued orders for the military to join the national terror war in response to the second Bali attack on Oct. 1, 2005, which killed 23 people including the three suicide bombers. The resort island had also been bombed on Oct. 22, 2002, in which 202 people, mostly Western tourists, were killed. Terror also rocked Jakarta when bombers attacked the Australian Embassy in 2004 and the J.W. Marriott Hotel in 2003.

The President didn't give clear guidance on how the military should deal with terror threats, but TNI chief Gen. Endriartono Sutarto quickly responded to it by saying he would reactivate the much-criticized military territorial role to collect information from the community and to set up an early warning system aimed at preventing more terrorist attacks.

According to Endriartono, the territorial role would give military intelligence officers the ability to "infiltrate" communities where terrorist groups had developed their networks.

Should that be the argument, why has the military been singularly unable to stop violence in conflict-torn areas where it had established territorial commands? In fact, the military has often been accused of actually being behind or involved in communal clashes.

It is still fresh in many minds that the scrapping of the military's territorial function was one of the strongest demands raised by the pro-democracy movement in 1998, which was marked by the ousting of former authoritarian president Soeharto.

Analysts and human rights campaigners say the revival of the territorial role shows that the military has not been at all serious in undertaking its internal reform programs.

During the Soeharto era, the military abused its socio-political function to intimidate and subdue government critics, even kidnapping and murdering them.

Officially, this role was scrapped after Soeharto's fall, but in fact the military remains politically very influential as evidenced by the victory of many of its former officers in certain local direct elections.

Civilian and military intellectuals have repeatedly warned that civilian incompetence could give the military an excuse to come back to the political fore.

There seemed to be a little good news when the military allowed its generals to be tried in a human rights tribunal for their roles in the 1999 carnage in East Timor after it voted for independence from Indonesia.

The same court had also tried senior military officers on charges of serious human rights violations in connection with the 1984 shooting incident in Tanjung Priok, North Jakarta.

But the good news quickly evaporated when none of those tried were convicted of any wrongdoing.

Also, all military officers were exonerated by a human rights court in Makassar, South Sulawesi, from all charges resulting from the Abepura shooting incident in Papua province.

Other progress seemed to be made by the TNI when it allowed civilians to design national defense policy, allowed its seats in the House of Representatives to be scrapped, and for some of its businesses to be taken over by the government.

However, with regard to these issues the military has been put to the test as to whether it is really serious about bowing to civilian control, of abandoning politics and of handing over all its businesses.



Jakarta, Jan 4 (ANTARA) - The Indonesian Legal Aid Institute (YLBHI) has advised the government to reject the United States' proposal to conclude a Non-surrender Agreement (NSA), a bilateral arrangement whereby Indonesia would never hand a US citizen who has violated human rights to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

"We recommend to the Indonesian government to reject the US proposal on NSA which will be put forward by US State Secretary Condoleezza Rice," YLBHI Director for Civil and Political Affairs Doni Ardianto said here Wednesday.

There would be no benefit for Indonesia in signing the agreement, he said.

The NSA would only benefit the United States which is known as a country that often violates the human rights of other countries and their citizens. he said.

The United States of America has been very active in establishing bilateral cooperation with other countries to win support for its proposal on NSA since the US had quit its membership in ICC.

More than 90 countries have signed the NSA which has been rejected and criticized by many other countries such as Canada, the European Union, and some African and South American countries.

Meanwhile, YLBHI Chairman Munarman said it woulld be a mistake for Indonesia to sign the accord on the ground that a number of its citizens were also still facing the possibility of litigation for human right abuses in East Timor in 1999 because ICC's jurisdiction did not apply to cases that had happened before the court was set up, namely in 2001.

"There is no reason to worry that the ICC will be used to arrest and bring Indonesian citizens to court for the East Timor human right violations," Munarman said.

He said the NSA could not protect the Indonesian citizens from the jurisdiction of US court neither could it be able to prevent the application of universal jurisdiction principles towards humanitarian criminal cases.

Signing the NSA would also affect Indonesia's image because it could create the impression that the government will not maintain its impunity from prosecution for domestic human right violations.

"If Indonesia signs the NSA, it means it has been tricked by US. Therefore we recommend that the US proposal be rejected," he said.



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