Watchdog slams KPK for apology, says TNI law being used as alibi for impunity

CNN Indonesia – July 29, 2023
KPK and Pospom officials hold press conference on Basarnas bribery case – July 28, 2023 (CNN)

Jakarta – Indonesian Human Rights Watch (Imparsial) has strongly criticised the position taken by the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) which has apologised to the TNI (Indonesian military) for declaring two military officers suspects in a bribery case at the National Search and Rescue Agency (Basarnas).

"The KPK's move to apologise and hand over the case of alleged corruption by the Kabasarnas (Basarnas head Vice Air Marshal Henri Alfiandi) and the Koorsmin (administrative coordinator Lieutenant Colonel Afri Budi Cahyanto) to the Puspom TNI [Military Police Headquarters] is wrong and could damage the law enforcement system and corruption eradication in Indonesia", said Imparsial Director Gufron Mabruri in a written release on Friday July 28.

According to Mabruri, the KPK did not need to apologies and should fully investigate the corruption at Basarnas using the KPK law as a basis. Mabruri emphasised that the KPK can ignore military justice mechanisms through the principle of lex specialist derogat lex generalis or a special law repeals a general law.

In the end, the KPK's current maneuvers will only hinder transparent and accountable disclosure of the case.

Moreover, Mabruri believes that the apology and surrendering the legal proceedings against the two suspects to the TNI could become an avenue of impunity or acquittal for the military officers at Basarnas.

"The military justice system as stipulated under Law Number 31/1997 on Military Courts is an exclusive legal system for military soldiers involved in crimes and often becomes a means of ensuring impunity for those who commit crimes", he explained.

Criticism of military impunity

Mabruri said that the internal corruption scandal at Basarnas by active TNI soldiers is evidence of the weak accountability and transparency in military institutions. According to Mabruri, the case could be used as momentum to reevaluate institutions that are closely linked to the military.

Imparsial is making three demands. First, that the KPK be asked to go ahead and thoroughly investigate the alleged corruption at Basarnas in a transparent and accountable manner.

Imparsial believes that this case could become an entry point for cases of alleged corruption that has ensnared other TNI soldiers. Do not let the law on military justice prevent the KPK from exposing the scandal.

Second, Imparsial is urging the government and the House of Representatives (DPR) to immediately revise the law on military justice which has up until now been used as an alibi and a means of maintaining impunity for TNI soldiers.

Mabruri emphasised that revising this law was one of the points made in President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's Nawa Cita (nine point program) during his first term in office.

Third, the government is being asked to evaluate the presence of active TNI soldiers in civilian agencies. Mabruri said the main focus should be on institutions that clearly contradicts the provisions of the TNI law.

"Because it will only give rise to a legal polemic when there are violations committed by these active TNI soldiers. Such as allegations of corruption, for example, which cannot be investigated quickly and thoroughly because of the legal exclusivity that applies to TNI soldiers who commit criminal acts", he said in conclusion.

Earlier, the KPK admitted that it was in error and apologised to a group of high-ranking TNI officers after it conducted a sting operation (OTT) and named Alfiandi and Cahyanto as suspects in a bribery case at Basarnas.

KPK Deputy Chairperson Johanis Tanak, who received an audience from a group of high-ranking military officers on Friday afternoon, admitted that there was a mistake in coordinating the case because the two suspects are members of the military.

"Here was the mistake, an oversight from our team who made the arrests. Therefore, in the meeting earlier we conveyed to our TNI friends that this could be conveyed to the TNI commander and TNI officials", said Tanak after the audience with the TNI officials in his office in South Jakarta.

"For this oversight, we apologise", he added.

This was despite the fact that Alfiandi had already been named a suspect for bribery related to a series of goods and services procurement projects. He is suspected of receiving 88.3 billion rupiah in bribes from various projects between 2021 and 2023.

The bribes were allegedly received by Alfiandi through Cahyanto who was caught red-handed during a KPK sting operation along with seven others on Tuesday July 25. (skt/DAL)

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Imparsial Kritik Maaf KPK, Sindir UU Militer Alibi Impunitas TNI".]