Sat, 29 Apr 2000

Military to set up special administrative tribunal

BANDUNG (JP): The Indonesian Military (TNI) will establish a special tribunal to handle cases relating to disputes between officers and their subordinates, TNI Deputy Chief of Staff Gen. Fachrul Rozi said.

The establishment of the tribunal sometime this year is part of TNI's efforts to bolster legal reform within the institution, Fachrul said after opening the 27th regular course of the TNI Staff and Command School here on Friday.

"The special tribunal is supposed to be a means to promote the military criminal code (KUHTM), which has been in use for around 30 years but is yet to be well understood by all TNI members," he said.

Fachrul did not address the question of whether existing military tribunals failed to defend the rights of low ranking soldiers.

KUHTM is the basic code of law for TNI members, and contains a number of important articles on the rights and obligations of soldiers.

"According to (KUHTM), a subordinate can reject a superior's orders which are against the law. The (military) administrative court provides subordinates the legal right to file a law suit against their commanders or superiors, once they (the subordinates) realize the orders are not in line with military discipline and law. There are orders which can be turned down, there are orders which must be rejected and there are orders that subordinates are allowed to refuse," he said.

He declined to point to specific articles in the KUHTM, but said orders to abduct and commit murder must be refused. "If they (the subordinates) carry out such orders, they are subject to (prosecution by the) law, not their commanders or superiors. Because the subordinates already know that abduction and murder are serious crimes."

Responding to a question by The Jakarta Post, Fachrul refused to say if this logic applied to the TNI members currently being tried for murder in Aceh. "I don't want to comment on (the Bantaqiah case). I don't want to interfere in the trial."

Fachrul, however, said military discipline and the line of command must be respected, "but not for anything against the law".

He said he expected all TNI members to increase their knowledge of military law to ensure TNI's reforms proceeded smoothly.

Many people believe only low-ranking soldiers are prosecuted for crimes, while their superiors escape punishment. In many cases, military tribunals have failed to punish the officers who gave the orders to their subordinates, despite the fact that the orders were later determined to be illegal.

In a related development, Lt. Gen. Djadja Suparman, the head of the TNI Staff and Command School, said TNI had also implemented a number of reforms in its system of education.

"To bring the military back to its original function, the focus of the education for Staff and Command School students is defense," Djadja said. (25/sur)