Subject: JP: Indictment of soldiers who murder civilians weak: Experts

Received from Joyo Indonesia News

also: Rights group elects lawyer as chairman; SMH Editorial: Indonesia's generals take a back seat

The Jakarta Post Monday, August 23, 2004

Indictment weak: Experts

Abdul Khalik, The Jakarta Post/Jakarta

The failure of the human rights tribunal to bring justice to the families of those killed in the 1984 Tanjung Priok incident and the 1999 mayhem in East Timor is likely to affect the credibility of the court, experts and activists say.

They also blamed on Sunday state prosecutors for failing to press appropriate indictments against military personnel accused of gross human rights violations in the two incidents.

"We can't deny the fact that the court is being used to serve the interest of the military. This will more or less discourage people to bring their cases to the court," Hikmahanto Juwana, dean of the School of Law at the University of Indonesia, told The Jakarta Post on Sunday.

Enny Soeprapto, a member of the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM), agreed with Hikmahanto and urged the public to support the court, arguing the tribunal was the last resort for human rights victims to seek justice.

Hikmahanto said the court must be maintained because its failure to convict defendants in one or two cases wasn't enough to justify the argument the court was no longer needed.

"It is a process of learning. We will ultimately achieve a healthy process after several (more) cases are handled," Hikmahanto said.

While the Tanjung Priok rights tribunal sent to jail 12 low-ranking military personnel implicated in the incident, it acquitted two officers -- Maj. Gen. (ret) Pranowo and Maj. Gen. Sriyanto, the current commander of the Army's Special Forces (Kopassus).

In the East Timor trial, judges freed virtually all military and police personnel implicated in the bloody violence surrounding the independence referendum in August 1999 in East Timor, which drove hundreds of thousands of East Timorese to flee to West Timor.

The failures to punish officers implicated in the incidents have raised fears the trials were used to whitewash high-ranking military officers implicated in the incidents.

Hikmahanto and Enny blamed the prosecutors' unwillingness to press appropriate indictments as the main reason why high-ranking military officers walked free.

Hikmahanto said the prosecutors had wrongly applied the chain of command principle to indict generals implicated in gross human rights abuses.

"They used Article No. 42 of Law No. 26/2000 on responsibility of command. Usually this article is the last one used to indict human rights perpetrators because prosecutors have to prove the generals held effective control of their subordinates," Hikmahanto said.

He said in the absence of effective control, which is often the case in Indonesia, generals could only be linked administratively to their subordinates.

Enny said Komnas HAM had done all it could to assemble convincing evidence against the generals.

"We couldn't do anything after we submitted the case file to the prosecutors. If the generals are free then there is something wrong with the prosecutors' indictments," said Enny.

Attorney General's Office Human Rights Department director Ketut Murtika, however, denied accusations prosecutors had made mistakes indicting the generals.

Ketut said prosecutors had managed to punish one general, Maj. Gen. (ret) Rudolf Butar Butar, the former North Jakarta Military Commander, who received a 10-year jail sentence, along with many of his subordinates. Butar Butar was the only general indicted who was not physically present at the time of the incident. He remains free pending an appeal.

"We have proven that we can make the judges punish a general in Butar Butar's case. It's just a matter of different perceptions, between us and the judges, that allows other generals to walk free, as we have the same evidence and witnesses (in each case)," Ketut said.


The Jakarta Post Monday, August 23, 2004

Rights group elects lawyer as chairman

MAKASSAR, South Sulawesi: Lawyer Johnson Panjaitan was elected on Saturday as chairman of the Indonesian Legal Aid and Human Rights Association (PBHI), succeeding PBHI and founder Hendardi.

At the conclusion of the PBHI's congress here on Saturday, Hendardi said the country's judiciary had failed to properly handle high-profile corruption and human rights cases, and instead provided leeway for perpetrators to escape justice.

"Injustice continues inside the courtrooms, with many suspects in gross human rights violations and mega-corruption cases walking free," Hendardi said.

At the same occasion, the PBHI named Hendardi the chairman of its national membership council. Hendardi has chaired the association since its founding in November 1996. -- JP


Sydney Morning Herald Monday, August 23, 2004


Indonesia's generals take a back seat

Indonesia's outgoing parliament is preparing for an historic send-off. Democratic reforms which began with the overthrow of the authoritarian former President Soeharto in 1998 set a timetable for the gradual abolition of reserved parliamentary seats for the armed forces.

On October 1 a new elected legislature is due to be sworn in. For the first time in more than four decades there won't be a military uniform in sight. The process of sending Indonesia's soldiers back to the barracks - and formally subjugating the armed forces to the authority of a democratically elected civilian government - will finally be complete.

This is an important milestone for Indonesia's young democracy. Australia and other Western nations have long been troubled by the politicisation of Indonesia's military and the abusive way power has too often been wielded. The transition suggests a welcome easing of bilateral tensions. However, a series of recent judgements in Indonesia's courts has shifted attention to another aspect of the military's power: its ability to pull strings through less formal channels.

This month an appeals court overturned the convictions of all remaining officers charged over human rights abuses during the Indonesian military occupation of East Timor. Another tribunal cleared the commander of the notorious special forces, Kopassus, over a massacre of protesters more than 20 years ago. Not a single member of Indonesia's security forces has been jailed for crimes against humanity, despite the well-documented atrocities of the Soeharto era and new abuses since.

The failure to secure even a symbolic human rights conviction sends a troubling signal; that the military can operate with impunity. A recent ruling by the Constitutional Court established a legal impediment to retrospective justice. However, the human rights prosecutions against senior Indonesian officers did not fail on this legal technicality. They failed because of the wavering resolve of civilian politicians. In the lead up to September's presidential run-off, political alliances are fluid, and deal making rife. There is no doubt the armed forces still represent a formidable national network and, as such, retain much leverage behind the scenes.

The Indonesian military is engaged in two protracted security operations against separatist groups. Jakarta considered the loss of East Timor in 1999 an international humiliation. It is now determined to crush independence movements in Aceh and Papua and, in doing so, to retain control of the provinces' considerable natural resources. This increasing militarisation mirrors the costly, but ultimately unsuccessful, Soeharto-era strategy of employing overwhelming force. Indonesia's own human rights commission last week concluded troops had recently committed gross abuses in several Papuan towns.

Australia assisted East Timor's transition to independence, but Canberra does not support independence movements elsewhere. This should not mean Canberra cannot press Jakarta on human rights or the underlying economic inequities which will only continue to stoke the conflicts in Aceh and Papua. Successful national elections earlier this year consolidated Indonesia's democratic reforms. Respect for human rights and the rule of law, however, are equally important pillars of any credible democracy.

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