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Indonesian President Joko Widodo attaches the rank to the new Armed Forces Chief Marshal Hadi Tjahjanto during an inauguration ceremony at the Presidential Palace in Jakarta, Indonesia on December 8, 2017.  © 2017 Antara Foto

(New York) – The Indonesian military should deter abuses by its personnel and hold human rights violators accountable, Human Rights Watch said in a letter made public today to the new Indonesian National Armed Forces (TNI) commander, Marshal Hadi Tjahjanto. President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo named Tjahjanto, the former air force chief, to the position on January 18.

Tjahjanto should immediately ban so-called virginity tests, which are obligatory for female applicants to the Indonesian armed forces. Virginity testing is a form of gender-based violence and has been widely discredited, including by the World Health Organization.

Indonesian women who seek to serve their country by joining the military shouldn't have to subject themselves to an abusive and discriminatory 'virginity test.'
Brad Adams

Asia Director

“Indonesian women who seek to serve their country by joining the military shouldn’t have to subject themselves to an abusive and discriminatory ‘virginity test,’” said Brad Adams, Asia director. “The Indonesian military cannot effectively protect all Indonesians, women and men, so long as a mindset of discrimination permeates their ranks.”

As armed forces commander, Tjahjanto should also publicly support President Jokowi’s lifting of access and reporting restrictions on foreign media in Papua and ensure that all military personnel in Papua fully respect media freedom.

Tjahjanto should also ensure prompt, transparent, and impartial investigations of abuses – including torture and unlawful killings – in which military personnel are implicated, and take appropriate action against personnel responsible.

Tjahjanto should also fully cooperate with government efforts toward investigating the mass killings of 1965-66, in which 500,000 to one million suspected communists and others were killed. He should make a commitment to release any relevant TNI documents about the killings and halt any intimidation efforts by military personnel of those seeking accountability. Military cooperation is crucial to determining responsibility for these atrocities and to provide justice and redress for the victims and their families.

Tjahjanto should also pledge to reform the military tribunal system to allow civilian courts to prosecute military personnel implicated in rights abuses against civilians. The 2004 Armed Forces Law placed the military courts under the supervision of Indonesia's Supreme Court but the military controls the composition, organization, procedure, and administration of the military courts.

During the United Nations Universal Periodic Review of Indonesia’s human rights record in 2007, 2012, and 2017, the Indonesian government made a commitment to reform the military tribunal system. The promised reforms included adding to the military criminal code the crimes of torture, and other acts of violence. However, the government has yet to add those offenses to the military criminal code.

“Marshal Tjahjanto should publicly support legal reforms to empower civilian courts to try soldiers implicated in rights abuses,” Adams said. “It’s a crucial step for holding Indonesia’s military accountable.”

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