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Jakarta Post

Doubts linger over Cebongan trials

  • Ina Parlina

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Wed, September 4, 2013   /  08:15 am

As the trials of 12 soldiers accused of slaying four inmates in a Yogyakarta prison draw to a close, human rights defenders say they have little confidence in the military court to deliver fair verdicts.

The Yogyakarta Military Court is expected to reach verdicts in the high-profile trials on Sept. 5 and 6. The panels of judges handling the case, which is divided into four dossiers, will decide the fate of the 12 defendants and members, of the Army'€™s Special Forces (Kopassus) Group 2 Kandang Menjangan in Kartosuro, Central Java, for their alleged roles in the killings of four detainees at Cebongan Penitentiary in Sleman, earlier this year.

The defendants are facing between eight months to 12 years'€™ imprisonment for various charges, ranging from insubordination to premeditated murder, as demanded by the prosecutors.

The heaviest sentence demands were made for on Second Sgt. Ucok Tigor Simbolon, Second Sgt. Sugeng Sumaryanto and First Corp. Kodik, who could face 12 years, 10 years and eight years in prison respectively. The prosecutors also demanded the three be dishonorably discharged.

Sumiardi of the Indonesian Islamic University'€™s Center of Human Rights Studies slammed the court and the prosecutors for not being serious enough in prosecuting the defendants. '€œJudges were not serious in digging up the facts and the prosecutors were not critical enough,'€ he said on Tuesday.

The judges, he said, set aside testimonies from the defendants that they once thought of disguising as police members to get access to the penitentiary and seemed to corner witnesses by asking their psychological conditions several times.

'€œThere were also efforts to spin the criminal case into a campaign against thuggery,'€ he added.

The lawyer for Ucok, Sugeng and Kodik, Lt. Col. Rohmad, has asked the panel of judges to free his clients, arguing that although Ucok had taken the lives of other people, he should be excused because the four murdered detainees were thugs who had caused problems in the community. Sugeng and Kodik, on the other hand, were not found to have been involved in the murders, he added.

Sumiardi also slammed the lawyers who claimed in their closing arguments that the defendants were suffering from stress disorders but always rejected plans to examine their mental condition.

Wahyudi Djafar of the Institute for Policy Research and Advocacy (ELSAM) highlighted the fact that the panels seemed to allow intimidating supporters of the defendants into the courtroom.

There were also several incidents of loud vocal protests by supporters of the soldiers outside of the courtroom. Komnas HAM chairwoman Siti Noor Laila was also harassed by them at one point.

'€œSince not a single crucial fact was explored during the trials, we doubt the verdicts will be fair and accountable,'€ Wahyudi said.

Helmy Fauzi, a lawmaker from House'€™s Commission I overseeing defense, said it was now time to reform the military tribunal. '€œEither the system or the esprit de corps must be changed,'€ he said.

The 2004 Military Law actually mandated to revise the 1997 Military Tribunals Law'€”the legal foundation of the establishment of military tribunals, which Helmy deemed had yet to reflect justice.

Sriyana, human rights enforcement coordinator at the Komnas HAM, said they would not stop advocating the case after the upcoming verdicts.

'€œShould there be an appeal, we will forward an amicus curiae [a brief filed by someone who is not party to a case] about our findings, which once was rejected by the panels,'€ she said.

Komnas HAM has recently pointed out discrepancies between the facts presented in the trial and those uncovered by the commission in the field, including the number of perpetrators and the weapons they carried.

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