Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Support claimed for military law reform in Indonesia

Indonesian Parliament
The Jakarta Globe reports here that factions in the lower house of parliament are in agreement on the need to reform military law so as to subject military personnel to the civilian justice system:
Tantowi Yahya, deputy chairman of Commission I of the House of Representatives, said on Monday that all factions of the legislature support the idea of revising the law on military tribunals, which could mean that members of the Indonesian Military (TNI) will be tried at regular courts if they are suspected of general crimes. 
“We all agree. The House, all factions, mostly they support [the revision]. The government has not agreed yet though,” Tantowi said. 
The revision is proposed for Law No. 31 from 1997, which states that criminal acts committed by soldiers must be resolved internally, within the military institution.

The House of Representatives of the 2004-09 period already discussed the idea of revising the law but the TNI at the time maintained it was not ready to let soldiers appear in civilian courts. 
“If [the soldiers commit a crime that] has nothing to do with their military jobs, then [they] must be processed at regular courts. If they commit graft, they must be processed at the Anti-Corruption Court,” added Tantowi, who is a member of the Golkar Party. 
NGOs such as the human rights watchdog Imparsial and the Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence (KontraS) have long called for the revision of the law. 
The revision is "a constitutional obligation" for the government, Poengky Indarti, Imparsial's executive director, said in March. "Article 27 [...] of the 1945 Constitution that says every citizen is equal before the law, [...] including the TNI's soldiers," she added. 
Arif Nur Fikri of KontraS said last month that the military tribunal should only be allowed to hear “cases regarding their professional code of conduct.” 
There have been a number of high-profile cases in recent years in which soldiers were involved, that including the shooting and torture of civilians. However, most military personnel to have been involved in such cases received relatively light sentences in military courts.
It's possible that the legislators' claims of broad agreement are wishful thinking, but perhaps change is afoot. 

Monday, October 5, 2015

Military law reform urged (again, still) in Indonesia

From this report in The Jakarta Post about the expanded role of the armed forces in Indonesian life:
Concerns over the professionalism of the military have further mounted after the TNI [Indonesian National Armed Forces] insisted on maintaining the existing law on military courts, Law No. 31/1997, which stipulates that criminal acts by soldiers must be resolved internally within the military institution. 
Human rights watchdogs claim the law prevents members of the military from being held accountable for crimes against civilians, particularly in conflict-prone areas such as the country’s easternmost province of Papua. 
In Papua, a shooting at Koperapoka in Mimika involving soldiers claimed the lives of two civilians in August, one of several such cases in the province that remain unresolved.
Activists also often cite the infamous attack at Cebongan Penitentiary in Sleman, Yogyakarta, by members of the Army’s Special Forces (Kopassus) in 2013 that left four detainees dead. That case was similarly tried before a military rather than civilian court, and is held up as an example of the military’s seclusion and lack of accountability. 
Until the TNI allows civilian courts to try soldiers accused of crimes, activists say, it will remain vulnerable to charges of lack of professionalism and commitment to justice. 
“Thus, a revision of the Military Court Law is urgent,” said Poengky Indarti of the Jakarta-based human rights watchdog Imparsial. “Revising the law is one way to make sure that the military is professional in carrying out its job.”

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Conscientious objection in South Korea

“This debate is a luxury we can’t afford as long as North Korea is there,” said Cho Myung-sik, 36, a veteran. “Besides, how are you going to tell genuine conscientious objectors from fakers if we introduce alternative services? How are you going to ensure fairness between them and those serving in the military?”

From this New York Times article concerning Jehovah's Witnesses and conscientious objection in South Korea. Excerpt:
Over the years, Jehovah’s Witnesses have filed a series of appeals asking the Constitutional Court to rule that the Military Service Act violates the constitutional right to freedom of conscience and religion. Hopes for an end to their travails rose in July, when the court held a public hearing on multiple appeals only four years after it had rejected similar petitions. The court is likely to rule on the matter before the end of the year.
Comparative law note: The United States has long recognized conscientious objection, including in-service objectors. While these cases can be challenging, the system -- which is subject to judicial review by writ of habeas corpus in the civilian federal courts -- has seemed to be able to distinguish between those who are sincere and those who are not.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Coup leader and plotters to face military trial in Burkina Faso

Gilbert Diendere, the general who led a short-lived coup against the interim government in Burkina Faso, will face trial before a military court, along with other plotters. Details here. Excerpts:

Under Burkina Faso's penal code, the coup plotters could be sentenced to death if convicted by a military court.
However, Hamado Dipama believes this is unlikely. "I don't think he (General Diendere) will be given the death penalty as stipulated by the law," he said. 
At least 11 people were killed and 271 injured in protests triggered by the coup. Tensions soared on Tuesday as some members of the RSP [presidential guard] refused to disarm, sparking a standoff with the army at the regiment's barracks which ended when the coup plotters abandoned their base after sustaining heavy weapons fire.

Pakistani Supreme Court hits the brakes on military court execution

The Supreme Court of Pakistan today suspended the death sentence handed down by a military court under the 21st Amendment. The petitioner will now have to exhaust his remedies under the Army Act. According to this report in Pakistan Today:
The Supreme Court suspended on Friday the execution of a convict awarded death sentence by a military court. 
A two-judge bench headed by Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan asked the applicant, Sabir Shah, to avail appeal forum before the military court under Army Act 1952. 
Shah, believed to be a member of a proscribed organisation, was convicted for his suspected involvement in the sectarian killing of a lawyer, Syed Arshad Ali, in Lahore. 
Dr Khalid Ranjha, counsel of Laila Bibi, the mother of the convict, had challenged Sabir Shah’s death sentence, stating in her petition that her son was a juvenile and was not given the right to fair trial. 
Further, the counsel said that the family members were not allowed to meet Shah and that he had not been given a chance to engage a counsel to plead his case. 
Earlier, the apex court admitted another petition for preliminary hearing against the military court’s verdict to award death sentence to an alleged militant. 
Saleh Bibi through her counsel Asma Jahangir had filed a petition under Article 184(3) of the Constitution against the award of death sentence to her husband by the military court.