Subject: Govt Says TNI Trials Need Time

The Jakarta Post Thursday, September 7, 2006

Govt Says TNI Trials Need Time

M. Taufiqurrahman, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Although the government has agreed that military personnel should be tried for misdemeanors in civilian court, it is not likely to happen anytime soon.

Defense Minister Juwono Sudarsono said Wednesday that due to the complexity of the issue, the government would not be ready to have soldiers stand trial in a civilian court in the next two or three years, as demanded by legislators.

"We do respect the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) decree and the military law (mandating that soldiers also should be tried in civilian court), but the reality is that the legal infrastructure is not ready for its implementation," Juwono said after a meeting with the House special committee on the amendment of the military tribunal law.

Juwono said the government was studying whether a transitional law would be needed to facilitate the handover of a military tribunal to a civilian court.

"Another option is whether we will be given a period of two or three years before the amended law come into effect."

He said the transition period was necessary because civilian courts were unprepared to try military personnel.

"The Criminal Code procedure for the military, for instance, has no provisions that would make it possible for prosecution in the civilian court."

Juwono pledged that the government would not continue past practices, with soldiers eluding harsh punishment through sentencing in closed military courts. It bolstered the image of the military as an omnipotent institution beyond the law.

In the past year, the House and the government have discussed the amendment of a 1997 law on military tribunals.

The amendment is in line with the 2000 MPR decree which separated the police and the military. Under its terms, soldiers should face trial in a military tribunal for violations of military regulations, and the civilian court for offenses under the Criminal Code.

Several legislators accused the government of procrastinating on the issue.

"Amendment of this law has been proposed by legislators from the previous term, but there still is no significant progress. The government seems to be buying time with its approach," special committee chairman Andreas Parrera of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle told reporters.

But Juwono said that the government would be ready to present its views on the transition issue in the next two weeks. A new meeting is slated for Sept. 20.

Parrera said the amendment must be completed before the lawmakers' terms expired in 2009.

"The discussion of the bill will go back to square one if it's given to future lawmakers."

------------------------------------------ Joyo Indonesia News Service

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