Indonesian human rights community concerned about proposed revision of Indonesian Military Law

The planned revision of the Indonesian Law No 34/2004 on the military (TNI) has sparked debate and concerns among Indonesian civil society. The revision of the law is part of the National Legislation Program (Prolegnas) from 2019 to 2024. The revisions proposed by the TNI have attracted controversy due to their potential impact on the TNI’s primary focus and the principles of democracy. Critics argue that expanding the TNI’s responsibilities beyond defence could divert resources and attention away from its core mandate. They express concerns about the potential overlap between the TNI and other agencies, as well as the risk of repeating the ABRI Dwifungsi model under President Suharto.

Before the 2001 Reformation era, the military had permanent seats in the Indonesian parliament and carried out a wide range of civilian matters in Indonesia. Police and the military were not yet separated regarding duties and responsibilities. Critics emphasize the importance of upholding democratic principles, popular sovereignty, and the mandate of the 1998 reform. They call for the TNI to prioritize its core duties outlined in the Constitution and stress the need for proper budgeting supervision to maintain an effective and accountable defence system.

The revisions to articles 3, 47 and 65 proposed by the military are concerning. Article 3 of the revised law suggests that the army is no longer a pure defence institution but should also gain responsibilities in security affairs. The revised Article 47 contains provisions that allow active TNI members to take on positions in ministries and other government bodies, including the Attorney General’s Office. Of particular concern are proposed revisions to Article 65, which suggests shifting the jurisdiction of military members entirely to military tribunals. The article of the current law stipulates that military members may be held accountable in civilian courts if they violate civilian criminal law.

Human rights researcher Mr Ikhsan Yosarie, from the SETARA Institute Institute for Democracy and Peace, suggested that the Indonesian government focus on strengthening the country’s defence rather than revising the TNI (Indonesian National Army) Law. He emphasised the need for the TNI to be consistent and concentrate on enhancing national defence against external threats. Mr Yosarie proposed that Kodam (Territorial Army Command) placements should prioritise border and outermost areas to ensure national defence and sovereignty.

Indonesian lawmaker Mr TB Hasanuddin stated that the revision process is still in its early stages and requires extensive discussions involving various stakeholders, including the government and the public. Hasanuddin criticized aspects of the proposed revision, such as expanding the TNI’s roles and separating budgeting from the Ministry of Defense. Articles 66, 67, and 68 of the proposed law draft suggest that the military budget is no longer the responsibility of the Ministry of Defense but should directly be approved and financed by the Finance Ministry.  He emphasized the importance of an open discussion to address problematic clauses in the law.