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Indonesia Awards First Compensation to Terror Victims

Arie Firdaus
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Juhanda, who carried out a deadly attack with a Molotov cocktail at a church in East Kalimantan province, gestures after being sentenced in the East Jakarta District Court to life in prison, Sept. 25, 2017.
Arie Firdaus/BenarNews

For the first time in Indonesia, the families of a child killed and others injured in a terrorist attack at a local church last year received government compensation – 237 million rupiah (U.S. $17,475) – based on a prosecutor’s unprecedented request.

The money was split among seven victims of the Molotov cocktail attack that killed Intan Olivia Banjarnahor, 2, and injured three other children at the Oikumene Church in Samarinda, East Kalimantan province, on Nov. 13, 2016.

The amount awarded by the court, after it ruled in the case in September, was less than the 1.47 billion rupiah ($108,410) sought by prosecutors and the victims’ families. Still, the recipients said they appreciated the funds handed over Thursday by the Witness and Victim Protection Agency (LPSK), which represents the government.

“This helps us. What is most important is knowing the government is actually concerned about us,” Marsya Tiur, a parent of an injured child, told Antara, Indonesia’s state-run news agency.

On the day of the attack, neighbors caught the man suspected of throwing the grenade. He was out on parole following his conviction on attempted bombing charges.

The attacker was identified as Jo bin Muhammad Aceng Kurnia (alias Juhanda), who tried to escape by jumping into the nearby Mahakam River. On Sept. 25, the East Jakarta District Court sentenced Juhanda to life in prison and ordered that the victims be compensated.

The order was based on the country’s 2003 terrorism law and the 2014 law on victims and witness protections. These laws specify that the government compensate victims of terrorism and human rights abuses.

The prosecutor’s request for government compensation to be included in Juhanda’s conviction was the first of its kind in Indonesia, which has been hit by terrorist attacks since October 2002 when 202 people died in bombings in Bali.

In February, the attorney general’s office advised prosecutors to include compensation requests for victims of terrorism and major human rights abuses.

“This is a good precedent,” Taufik Andrie, director of the Institute for International Peacebuilding in Jakarta, told BenarNews on Friday. “But it is important to also cover past victims.”

Adhe Bhakti, a terrorism analyst with the Center for the Study of Radicalism and Deradicalization, applauded the government’s action, saying terrorist acts could have long-term effects.

“Sometimes they lose their future. The breadwinners might die or lose their job opportunities or chance to further their education,” Adhe said.

Both want government to be quicker in responding to the needs of the victims, including awarding compensation without waiting for a court order.

“Directly give it to the victims as is their right,” Adhe told BenarNews.

Still waiting

Other victims of Indonesian terrorist attacks are not so lucky.

Dwi Welasih, who was injured in the 2003 Marriott hotel bombing in Jakarta that killed 12 people and injured more than 150 others, has been fighting for years for government compensation, even after a court ruled in favor of the victims.

“Until now it has not been given, I don’t know why,” she told BenarNews.

Tony Soemarno, another Marriott bombing victim, said he would fight for compensation for himself and other victims.

“I don’t know for how long, but I will continue to struggle,” said the founder of the nonprofit Association of Indonesian Bomb Victims.

LPSK Vice Chairman Lili Pintauli Siregar explained that Marriott funds had not been distributed because the court ruling did not specify the number of victims nor the amount to be compensated by the government.

“The data of the victims is not detailed,” Lili told BenarNews. “So it’s a little difficult. To whom will the compensation be paid?”

Legislation in the works

Meanwhile, members of the Indonesian House of Representatives (DPR) are drafting a revised anti-terrorism bill to spell out guidelines for courts to grant compensation to terror victims. In addition to establishing court guidelines, the bill also contains a clause stating that anyone suspected of terrorism may be taken or held at a certain place for six months.

The long-awaited legislation has been delayed over disagreements.

Muhammad Syafi’I, who chairs the special parliamentary committee working on the bill, was asked about its status. Efforts began following the January 2016 terror attack in Jakarta that killed eight people, including four militants.

“It will be completed soon,” he said.

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