The trial of 11 Army Special Forces (Kopassus) commandos for the raid and execution-style murder of four detainees at Cebongan Penitentiary in Yogyakarta will be open to the public, a top general has said.
Kopassus Commandant Maj. Gen. Agus Sutomo said that the soldiers’ court martial would be held in Central Java, near their base, and would be open to the public.
“The open trial is our answer to those who question whether the military can be impartial when trying its own soldiers,” Agus Sutomo said on Friday at the Indonesian Military (TNI) headquarters in Cilangkap, East Jakarta, as quoted by kompas.com.
Agus also said that he was ready to take responsibility for the actions of the soldiers as Kopassus chief.
Nine of the eleven commandos were said to have confessed to Army investigators team the attack was done spontaneously to retaliate for the victims’ alleged murder of former Kopassus commando First Sgt. Heru Santoso.
According to investigators, the soldiers said they launched the raid after discovering that the detainees were the ones who had sadistically and brutally murdered Heru, their former superior.
The soldiers, assigned to the Second Kopassus Group in Kartasura, Central Java, also allegedly said that they had been enraged by the unrelated assault on another Kopassus commando, First Sgt. Sriyono, by street thugs in Yogyakarta on March 20.
Observers have doubted whether the Kopassus soldiers would receive a fair and transparent court martial, with a coalition of human rights groups calling on President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to issue a regulation in lieu of law to try the soldiers in a civilian court.
Poengky Indarti of Imparsial, for example, said that military courts had long flouted the letter and spirit of the law with impunity.
The government, however, snubbed the suggestion, saying that under the Military Tribunals Law, the soldiers must be tried in a military court. “I am sure that the trial will be fair and transparent,” Law and Human Rights Minister Amir Syamsuddin said.
In the wake of the Cebongan murders, several lawmakers said that they planned to revise the 1997 Military Tribunal Law, with deputy House of Representatives speaker Priyo Budi Santoso saying that the revision was needed to ensure the accountability of the military court system.
Also on Friday, representatives of the National Commission of Human Rights (Komnas HAM), which conducted its own investigation of the Cebongan murders, came to TNI headquarters to ask the military not to stop its investigation despite the confession, citing many unanswered questions.
Separately, National Police chief Gen. Timur Pradopo said the police would halt their investigation and hand their findings to the Army, which would investigate further.
Yudhoyono, himself a retired general and whose brother-in-law is currently Army chief, said on Friday that he regretted the incident, citing that such vigilante action could not be justified under the rule of law.
“Justice must be upheld as fairly as possible,” Yudhoyono said. “I hope all parties can support the process for enforcing the law and justice. I support the effort, particularly of the TNI and the police, to enforce justice. I also ask the public to give them the space and chance to work professionally.”
Rio Ramabaskara, one of the lawyers of the four slain detainees demanded that the Yogyakarta Police be held accountable for the raid.
“Why did they let the four detainees be transferred to the prison in Sleman? Their reason of needing space for renovation is strange,” Rio said.
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