Monday, October 6, 2014

Indonesian lower house passes disciplinary legislation, but not military court reform

In a compromise, the Indonesian House of Representatives has passed legislation to improve discipline, including cases involving high- and mid-level officers, but has not passed military court reform. A Jakarta Post op-ed by a doctoral candidate in Australia explains:
Instead of continuing to discuss amendments to the 1997 law regarding military courts, the government insists that discipline is the primary problem facing the TNI [Indonesian Army]. 
The bill on military tribunals should be deliberated again by the legislature, given the many problems of military members involved in crimes. The Cebongan case was just one example where the perpetrators should have been tried in a civilian court for premeditated murder, as their actions had nothing to do with military duty, let alone a combat situation.
The debate to amend the law on military courts was tough since the government was reluctant to accept the principle of civilian supremacy in legal justice, where TNI members who breach a general criminal law would be tried in the general justice system.
From 2005 to 2009, particularly during the deliberations on the military court bill at the legislature, the Defense Ministry continued to buy time to retain supremacy over the military court in the event of defendants being military members, including the mechanism of the connectivity court where the panel of judges trying military defendants for general crimes comprises military and civilian judges.
In the end, the House of Representatives’ special commission on the bill amending the military courts law failed.
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 [T]he borderline between merely breaking discipline and conducting crimes is unclear and this gray area often provides an exit strategy that saves military personnel from legal prosecution.

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