Travesty of justice in Papua

Travesty of justice in Papua

, 15 November 2010


The seven-month imprisonment given to a junior Army officer in Papua, who was shown on YouTube leading the torture of Papuan civilians, defies the sense of justice of any decent and sane person. It’s a case of the punishment not fitting the crime. But did the Military Court in Jayapura ever consider the torture, in plain view of all who have seen the video, a criminal act?

Second Lt. Cosmos was found guilty of defying a superior order when he allowed his men to torture civilians suspected of supporting the Papuan separatist movement. His three men each received five month terms for breaching the military code of conduct. The court also found Cosmos guilty of tarnishing the reputation of the Indonesian Military (TNI).

Where is the crime in all of this here? Apparently nowhere.

We learned that the evidence presented in court was not the same video that shocked the world, but instead a different video was shown where the torture was reportedly milder.

One might have been tempted to congratulate the court for handing down heavier punishments than those demanded by the prosecutors. But five to seven months imprisonment is a joke, except that it is not funny.

This charade in the military court gives us a sense of déjà vu. This was how the military dealt with cases of abuse and human rights violations during the Soeharto years. Back then, a case went to a military court and the verdict was either breach of conduct or a violation of procedure. Earlier plans to bring cases like this to a civilian court on criminal charges never materialized — because the issue remains in a deadlock within the House of Representatives.

But the TNI is wrong if it thinks it can get away with this just as it did during the Soeharto years. Times have changed and the military should follow suit, whether in Jakarta, Java, or in Papua. The military court is correct in suggesting cases like this tarnish the TNI’s image. What it failed to see is that it also tarnishes the reputations of the government, of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, and of the entire nation.

Indonesia cannot claim to be a democracy if military impunity remains the order of the day, especially for clear cut cases of torture. Indonesia should go back to the drawing board on political and military reforms.