Indonesian democracy activists condemn military intervention in civilian legal system

Pizaro Gozali Idrus and Nazarudin Latif
Indonesian democracy activists condemn military intervention in civilian legal system Special forces commandos march during an Armed Forces Day parade commemorating the 77th anniversary of the Indonesian military in Jakarta, Oct. 5, 2022.
Tatan Syuflana/AP file photo

The Indonesian armed forces commander ordered an investigation after NGOs and activists criticized the military for what they described as its meddling in civilian criminal proceedings.

The critics cited two recent cases where, they alleged, military personnel interfered with law enforcement and police actions by taking control in one case and freeing a suspect from custody in the other.

In the first case, military officials allegedly intimidated the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), a government agency which had named an air marshal as a recipient of bribes, according to the Jakarta-based Setara Institute for Democracy and Peace. 

In the second case, officials with the military command in North Sumatra allegedly entered a police station in the provincial capital of Medan and forced officers to free a civilian, who had been arrested on suspicion of counterfeiting land certificates, the institute said.

The Medan-based Legal Aid Institute (LBH) criticized the police decision to release the suspect from custody. 

“This has undermined the existing legal system,” Irvan Saputra, LBH’s director in Medan,  told BenarNews. 

Indonesia’s military chief, Adm. Yudo Margono, agreed with the activists and said the soldiers’ actions at the Medan police station were inappropriate.

“I think it’s unethical for military members to do so,” Yudo said Monday, adding he had ordered military police to investigate.

A military spokesman said headquarters could get involved in some cases.

“Kodam Bukit Barisan [the Medan-based military command] has authority over the cases of subordinates, if proven guilty,” Rear Adm. Julius Widjojono told BenarNews.

In the first case, the KPK named the head of national search and rescue agency (Basarnas), Associate Marshal Henri Alfiandi and another military official, as suspects in an alleged bribery case valued at 88.3 billion rupiah (U.S. $5.8 million). 

The KPK later apologized, saying the designation of the two military officials as suspects was a mistake. 

Setara Institute chairman Hendardi said the KPK’s apology was the result of intervention from the military.

In the second case, Maj. Dedi Hasibuan along with several members of the North Sumatra military command, allegedly entered the Medan City Police office on Aug. 5 and forced officers to release a civilian suspect identified only by his initials: ARH. The suspect was detained for allegedly forging land certificate signatures.

A video showing Dedi allegedly arguing with Police Commissioner Fathir Mustafa has gone viral. Police then granted ARH’s request for a suspension of detention.

“That’s called institutional intimidation,” Hendardi told BenarNews. 

Usman Hamid, executive director of Amnesty International Indonesia, also criticized the military’s action.

“The police still have problems. But that doesn’t mean that the military can intervene, especially by intimidating security forces and all legal institutions,” Usman told BenarNews.

In a statement, Dedi, who is a legal adviser with the legal unit of the military command in North Sumatra, said he had sent an official request for suspension of the detention to the Medan Police chief, but he received an answer via WhatsApp, which he considered unethical.

Col. Rico Julyanto Siagian, spokesman for the military command, said Dedi was related to the suspect.

“Maj. Dedi and ARH are brothers,” Rico said.

Rico expressed regret that Dedi brought soldiers to the Medan police station.

“The Bukit Barisan Military Command and the North Sumatra Regional Police are solid and committed to entrusting all legal issues to police,” he said.

Hendardi said Dedi’s response of sending in troops would encourage “normalization of intimidation” of law enforcement in many sectors.

Julius, the military spokesman, challenged Hendardi’s statement that the KPK arrest and the incident in Medan were institutional intimidation.

“The two cases are very different. … Just go back to the existing rules of law,” Julius told BenarNews on Tuesday. 


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