Muninggar Sri Saraswati, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
The ad hoc human rights tribunal decided on Monday to proceed with the trial of military officers allegedly involved in the Tanjung Priok massacre in 1984, despite arguments from defense lawyers that the court had no legitimacy to hear the case.
Presiding judge Andi Samsan Nganro said the court was authorized to hear the case based on a presidential decree in 2001 on the establishment of the ad hoc human rights tribunal.
The lawyers, representing Col. Sutrisno Mascung and other 10 defendants, had earlier insisted that the decree was ""legally defective.""
Andi said that the decree was valid as the government had not revoked it. There had not been a motion from the public for judicial review of the decree, either, Andi added.
The panel of five judges also rejected the lawyers' argument that the indictment was inaccurate.
The case is scheduled to resume on Monday next week to hear testimony from several witnesses.
Sutrisno, was then a captain, led Platoon II of the Air Defense Artillery Battalion based in North Jakarta. His subordinates, Chief Corp. Asrori, Chief Corp. Siswoyo, Sgt. Maj. Abdul Halim, Second Lt. Zulfata, Sgt. Maj. Sumitro, Chief Sgt. Sofyan Hadi, Chief Corp. Prayogi, Chief Corp. Winarko, Chief Corp. Idrus and Second Sgt. Muhson are being charged with crimes against humanity.
Under Human Rights Law No. 26/2000, the soldiers face a minimum of 10 years in prison and a maximum sentence of death if found guilty.
Prosecutors said the defendants were involved in the shooting at a crowd of demonstrators during a rally on Sept. 12, 1984, which claimed at least 14 lives and injured 11 others.
The National Commission on Human Rights put the number of fatalities at 33.
The Tanjung Priok bloodshed trial is the second human rights tribunal after the trial of security officers and civilians involved in East Timor atrocities, which drew public criticism, as most of the defendants were acquitted.
Many have also raised skepticism over the Tanjung Priok trial, as high-ranking military officers in command at that time are exempt from prosecution. These include former Jakarta military commander Gen. (ret) Try Sutrisno and former Armed Forces Commander Gen. (ret) L.B. Moerdani.