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A legal basis for domestic military intervention

Late last month, National Police chief Gen. Timur Pradopo and Indonesian Military (TNI) chief Adm. Agus Suhartono signed a memorandum of understanding, just one day after President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono issued Presidential Instruction (Inpres) No. 2/2013 on handling internal security threats to guide the TNI as it assists the police in communal conflicts.

However, the MoU has some serious problems.

First, the MoU violates Law No. 2/2002 on the National Police and Law No. 34/2004 on the TNI. Article 41 of Law No. 2/2002 clearly states that the involvement of the TNI should be managed by government regulation (PP).
Meanwhile, as a military operation other than war, the TNI’s support of local governments and public order should be arranged by a separate law (Article 20 of Law No. 34/2004).

Agus said after the MoU was signed that the TNI could deploy personnel to conflict areas without the consent of the police or officials in the affected regions. Besides violating the Law on the TNI, such an assumption of authority is potentially prone to abuse.

Article 7 of Law No. 34/2004 stipulates that military operations other than war must be conducted following a decision from the state, meaning that the House of Representatives must give its approval in the first place. As of the present moment; the House, the military or the government has never discussed such military assistance.

What Agus said reminded the public of the time when the TNI Law was still under deliberation in the House in 2004. There was a heated debate over then Article 19 — dubbed the coup d’etat article by the media — which gave the authority to the TNI’s commander to deploy military personnel whenever he thought the state was under an emergency. Following massive public pressure, this article was dropped by the government and the House.

We cannot imagine what might happen in Aceh, Papua, Poso or any other security hot spot under such an article. Troops could have been deployed not because the local governments or the police asked for help, but upon the TNI commander’s judgment alone.

There has been increasing public concern about potential violations, as prior to the signing of the Police-TNI MoU, the number of human rights violations was already quite high.

As a matter of fact, we cannot let the military conduct any operation on its own discretion. We still regard the military as an institution authorized to use deadly force. So, as the third largest democracy after India and the US, we have to maintain democratic control over the military.

The TNI can conduct an operation only after a political decision to deploy troops has been made. Such a code of conduct is equivalent with the principle of civil supremacy stipulated in Law No. 34/2004.

There is also the question of a legal basis for the agreement. The MoU only binds the signatories. However, as implementation of this MoU will affect other parties, including the public, we need a stronger regulation that is legally binding to be used as the legal basis for the public, the TNI and the police. This kind of regulation will give guidance and protection for all of us.

A question remains after the Presidential Instruction (Inpres) and the MoU were signed: Is President — as the supreme commander of the TNI — trying to avoid command responsibility if violations occur when the military is deployed in such operations?

Presidential Instruction No. 2/2013 is obviously the legal basis for the MoU. However, an Inpres is not a solution for handling internal security disturbances, which should be addressed by the security actors themselves in reference to existing laws. The President should evaluate his administration’s performance and the security commanders who have failed in handling internal security problems and not simply issue an Inpres.

Local conflicts in Indonesia are complex. Their root causes are not simple and local governments are sometimes part of the problem. Addressing root causes is more important than merely using a security approach to end the conflicts. In other words, the Inpres and the MoU will just give blank check to security actors to uphold security using their own assessments.

There are some options that the government should consider. First, the government must cancel this MoU. Second, the government should revise Government Regulation No. 16/1960 on military assistance, as some articles in this regulation are obsolete and incompatible with other laws.

Issuing specific regulations covering military assistance to the civilian authorities is not a hard task. It just needs political will from government.

However, this policy should be followed by the drafting of bill on military assistance to civilian authorities and its immediate submission to the House for deliberation. This bill should define terms such as proportionality and the last resort principle, as well as list dos and don’ts and the conditions governing the military’s involvement in internal security problems. This bill would overcome the dispute over the laws on the TNI and on the Police.

Mr. President, this is your choice, as you consider your legacy to Indonesia.

Al Araf
Program director of Imparsial and a lecturer on strategic studies at Al-Azhar University and Paramadina University

Anton Aliabbas
Program director of The Ridep Institut and a lecturer at Binus International University

Both are members of the Civil Advocacy for Security Sector Reform.

JAKARTA POST, 18 Februari 2013

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