Subject: Govt 'Keeping TNI Above the Law:' Analyst

The Jakarta Post Friday, September 22, 2006

Govt comes under fire for 'keeping TNI above the law'

M. Taufiqurrahman, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

A political analyst has accused the government of ensuring impunity for the military by refusing to let soldiers stand trial in a public court.

Ikrar Nusa Bakti of the Indonesian Institute of Sciences said Thursday the military as an institution had "too many skeletons in its closet" and would not risk them being brought into the open in public trials.

"If such a mechanism was agreed upon, then the possibility of having generals with poor human rights records stand trial would be greater. The military doesn't want this to happen," Ikrar told The Jakarta Post.

He said it was another setback in the effort to reform the military, long considered an omnipotent group answerable to no one in Indonesian society.

"This once again proves that the military only agrees upon reform in which they decide the terms for doing it," he said.

In a meeting Wednesday with the House special committee on the amendment of a 1997 law on military tribunals, Defense Minister Juwono Sudarsono rejected the proposal to have the military stand trial for misdemeanors in civilian court.

He said soldiers were an indispensable part of the country's defense system, which would be disrupted if they were tried in public courts.

Juwono also argued the legal infrastructure of civilian courts was not ready to try military personnel. He said public court judges did not receive training about military affairs, and thus their verdicts could compromise military interests and the implementation of the country's defense system.

Ikrar dismissed Juwono's reasoning.

"What does a civilian court have to prepare for if it only hears cases of petty crimes committed by soldiers? What the judges need to do is look into past cases and apply the solution to the trial at hand."

University of Indonesia military analyst Andi Wijayanto said military personnel were not psychologically prepared to be subjected to rulings of a civilian court.

"It is the character of every military institution in the world that they feel superior to civilians," he told the Post.

But he was optimistic there would be fair trials for military personnel accused of misdemeanors in the future.

"What is needed is a codified military tribunal law to ensure a fair trial for soldiers. As long as this prerequisite is absent, the military will always refuse to be tried by civilians."

He believed the House should drop the amendment to the military tribunal law, and focus instead on devising comprehensive Military Court Procedures.

"What matters isn't whether we have soldiers stand trial in a military court or civilian court, but having a comprehensive law that sanctions both infractions of military codes and ordinary crimes."

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

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