TNI Neutrality in Lebanon

Sep 2nd, 2006, in News, by

As Indonesia prepares to send troops to Lebanon calls are made for the country’s armed forces (TNI) to maintain neutrality in the conflict.

After Israel was reported to have decided to withdraw its objections to Indonesian participation in the peace-keeping force it was announced that the Indonesian contigent of about 1000 men would likely depart for the middle east in mid October, after Lebaran.

In an article called “Pasukan Perdamaian TNI Diminta Patuhi Hukum Humaniter Internasional”, or “Indonesian Peacekeeping Force Asked to Respect International Humanitarian Law”, with a subtitle that reads, more or less, “if they can’t be impartial, don’t go”, Hukum Online airs the concerns of some that the Indonesian force could be biased towards the Hizbullah side in the conflict, and that they will err in the human rights respecting area.

Rafendy Djamin, of the Human Rights Working Group (HRWG), is one who is concerned about the human rights angle of the matter and the TNI’s inherent ability to match up to the requirements of the job. The record of the TNI in Indonesia, in Aceh and Papua for example, does not inspire confidence that they will obey international laws and the rules of engagement in the mission, says Rafendy. Specifically on the the rules of engagement question, he said countries participating in peace-keeping missions must maintain a neutral stance towards both parties, in this case Israel and Hizbullah.

He goes on to strongly doubt that the Indonesian military is capable of such impartiality given the political conditions in Indonesia, in that these conditions are firmly of an anti-Israel bent, and that this hostility to Israel has a basis in religious feeling, for some. The propensity of some senior political figures to play on the sectarian issue, or perhaps to stir up anti-semitism, to put it another way, will likely affect the ability of the TNI to be professional and may even cause it to side with the Islamic cause in Lebanon.

The recourse to stirring up of emotions about the Israel-Lebanon (and Palestinian) conflict was not made only by radical groups but also those firmly in the mainstream, such as Muhammadiyah chairman Din Syamsudin. Rafendy also made note of the problematic stance of some in the government, such as that of Defence minister Juwono Soedarsono, who stated that Indonesia would never help disarm Hizbullah. Additionally, but not mentioned by Rafendy, Foreign Affairs minister Hassan Wirajuda openly admitted that domestic political considerations would prevent Indonesia from disarming Hizbullah. (Israel’s Rejection).

The likelihood that the TNI would be biased towards one party, and given their lack of respect for human rights and international law obligations in the past, meant that there existed the possibility that crimes would be committed by TNI members in Lebanon, causing international disgrace for Indonesia. He gave an example of one possible situation:

For example, if Hizbullah violates the ceasefire and the TNI just look the other way. Or if Israel violates the ceasefire and the TNI screams about it.
(Misalnya saja, kalau ada pelanggaran dari Hizbulah TNI tutup mata atau pura-pura ‘gak lihat. Sebaliknya kalau dilakukan Israel dihantam habis.)

In conclusion he asked that military figures make a clear statement of neutrality and willingness to abide by international law. If they could not show impartiality then it would be better if Indonesia did not take part, he said.

One Comment on “TNI Neutrality in Lebanon”

  1. Mad Muhaa says:

    On military neutrality in peacekeeping missions, I have no doubt that the soldiers will stand up to their commissions and remain impartial. It is part of their training to maintain passive aloofness, disregarding whatever prejudices they may entertain in private, and simply do what are assigned by their commanders. Anyone still in uniform, whether military or the police or even your lowly Satpam (private security), lives by certain codes of conduct that nurture honor and dignity; those unable to cope with the rigid mechanical rules of the military would have been weeded out early in their careers. Soldiers may be unruly ruffians off-duty, but fatigue-donned they are different lot. Belligerence is out, even the smallest personal skirmishes are meticulously punishable by court martial. Short of being attacked point blank in utter impunity, regular soldiers everywhere will stand bravely suppressing emotions and wait for commands before pulling triggers. Having friends and acquaintances in the Indonesian Army, most of them uncommissioned privates and sergeants, I’d venture to say that every single one of them is no more eager to make troubles than you and I. And when the command is to keep peace between fighting parties, taking sides is making troubles.

    What about “their lack of respect for human rights and international law obligations in the past”? Let’s clear up some things. Timor Leste, Aceh, Jakarta ’98, I suppose those places were then parts of Indonesia and therefore subject to national laws more than international ones. We well remember that national laws in those days concerned more on common economic improvement, sometimes to the deterrent of personal and group interest. The Army couldn’t help but taking harsh measures against those menacing public safety – it was in its commission. And no one, I trust, could say it was partial, as both liberals (PRD etc) and Islamic hotheads were crushed. But although times are changing, and the current Army is under incessant pressure to “demilitarize” itself, I hope it keeps the quality so dear to soldiers, namely the ability to withstand attacks and follow orders.

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