Mon, 09 Oct 2000

Officers could be tried in civil court under a new bill

YOGYAKARTA (JP): Minister of Defense Mahfud M.D. said his ministry in cooperation with the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights and the Attorney General's Office is currently drafting a bill to enable military personnel to be tried under a civil court if they are indicted for violating civil laws.

Mahfud said the plan was in line with People's Consultative Assembly Decree No. 7/2000 on the Role of the Military and the National Police, which underlines the necessity for soldiers to answer to a civil court if they commit civil crimes.

"The decree stipulates that civil crimes committed by military personnel should be tried in civil court, not in a military court," he told reporters here.

Once the bill is passed by the House of Representatives the military court would only have to deal with cases occurring on military bases or related to military operations, such as desertion.

"The police, the military auditor and the Attorney General's Office will handle any civil crimes by military personnel," he explained.

Mahfud highlighted the importance of the police and the Attorney General's Office in being prepared to probe crimes committed by members of the military, something rarely done.

"Past failures to investigate made many criminal cases involving military personnel just fade away," he said.

Nevertheless, Mahfud called on the public not to admonish the Indonesian Military (TNI) despite its past record, often held in poor regard due to numerous alleged criminal and rights violations.

"I agree that we should take any military personnel committing civil violations before a civil court, but we should not ruin TNI as an institution".

"We need a strong military institution to protect us from the threat of disintegration," Mahfud said.

He said there were groups of people and non-governmental organizations which unceasingly and sometimes unnecessarily condemn TNI.

Without elaborating Mahfud suggested they might be part of a conspiracy to destroy Indonesia.

"Imagine Indonesia without TNI for just two hours. I'm sure the country would be torn to pieces," he said.

Mahfud remarked that similar strategies of undermining the military institution had been effected in certain big countries by other countries without undertaking a frontal war, such as the case in Russia and Yugoslavia.

"They were destroyed without waging war as the people were provoked to attack their own military institution," he said.

"We should all be aware of this. We have come to an analysis that we may be heading in such a direction," he said, while noting that growing public demands for independence in Aceh and Irian Jaya were embraced by certain foreign parties.(swa/lup)