Child protection commission appreciates court verdicts on JIS case

Child protection commission appreciates court verdicts on JIS case

Jakarta International School (JIS). (ANTARA/Reno Esnir)

The defendant is proven guilty of deliberate violence, deception, and lying."
Jakarta (ANTARA News) - An Indonesian court recently found a Canadian educator and an Indonesian teaching assistant at Jakarta International School (JIS) guilty of sexually assaulting three kindergarten students and sentenced them to 10 years in prison.

"The defendant is proven guilty of deliberate violence, deception, and lying," Chief Judge Nur Aslam Bustaman said while reading out the verdict for Neil Bantleman, a Canadian guidance counselor, in the South Jakarta District Court on April 2, 2015.

The judges also imposed a fine of Rp100 million on Bantleman and if he fails to pay it, his sentence will be extended for six months.

According to Bustaman, the defendants complicated testimonies and denial of having committed the crime were factors that worked against him.

The session, which lasted for eight hours, was attended by a number of his fellow teachers, including his wife Tracy, who looked shocked hearing the verdict.

The sentence was lighter than the 12 years that the prosecutor demanded citing the violation of Article 82 of Law Number 32 of 2002 on Child Protection.

Bantleman, 45, pleaded not guilty of the charge that he sexually abused three kindergarteners at JIS. He said he would appeal against the verdict.

On the next day, April 3, 2015, the same court sentenced Ferdinant Tjiong, an Indonesian teaching assistant at JIS, also to 10 years in jail in the same case.

"The defendant is convicted of violence, deception, and the denial of his criminal act," Chief Judge Nur Aslam Bustaman noted.

A panel of judges imposed on him a fine of Rp100 million or six months more in jail.

Tjiongs sentence too is lower than what the prosecutor demanded, a 12-year jail term for violating Article 82 of Law Number 23 of 2002 on Child Protection.

Tjiongs wife Sisca was present when the court pronounced its verdict on her husband.

The lawyer of both Tjiong and Bantleman, Hotman Paris Hutapea, stressed they will appeal against the verdict.

They had been under arrest since July after the parents of three kindergarten students filed police complaints against them. A third educator then vehemently asserted their innocence and filed defamation complaints against the parents of one of the students.

The Indonesian Child Protection Commission (KPAI) has appreciated the courts verdicts.

"The verdicts have shown that there were sexual assaults in JIS and that they involved the educators of the international school," Chairman of the KPAI Asrorun Niam Sholeh said in a press statement on April 3, 3015.

The judges demonstrated their independence throughout the legal process, he said. The KPAI has urged other schools to use the case as a reminder to intensify supervision and security in schools, he added.

No one is immune to the law or can escape legal processes, he remarked. He also urged the Education and Culture Minister to carry out a complete audit of every international school in the country.

"The Manpower Ministry needs to strengthen permit procedures for foreign teachers intending to work in Indonesia, particularly by checking their professional competency and morality," he emphasized.

However, the United States Ambassador to Indonesia, Robert Blake, expressed disappointment over the legal process in the JIS case.

"We have been closely following the case of the JIS teachers. Any case on child abuse allegations is sensitive," the ambassador noted in a statement on April 2, 2015.

He pointed out that serious questions have arisen in this case regarding the investigation process and lack of credible evidence against the teachers.

"We are deeply disappointed with the outcome. We look forward to the next step in the legal process and we hope all facts in the case will be considered. We hope that the legal process, as guaranteed by the Indonesian Constitution, will be implemented in a fair and impartial manner," he stated.

Blake further noted that the international community has been following the case closely. The outcome of the legal process and what it revealed about the rule of law in Indonesia will have a significant impact on the countrys reputation abroad, he added.

The sexual abuse case emerged last April, when the Indonesian police arrested a janitor who worked for a cleaning company on the charges of child sexual assault in the school.

The janitor and five other cleaners, who were arrested later, were accused of the gang-rape of a 6-year-old kindergarten student sometime in March 2014 in a bathroom near a boys classroom.

In December 2014, four male janitors at the school were sentenced to eight years in prison in the same case and a female janitor received seven years for acting as an accomplice. A sixth suspect in the group committed suicide while in police custody.

Two months after the allegations against the janitors became public, the families of the first boy who came forward and two other boys in the kindergarten filed complaints with the police claiming that some members of the schools teaching staff sexually assaulted their children.

They alleged that Bantleman and Tjiong as well as the elementary schools American principal Elsa Donohue had raped the children and other students in the schools administrative offices and that they had videotaped the assaults.

While Donohue has not been detained or charged with any offense, no videotapes of the alleged assaults were ever found.

Established in 1951, Jakarta International School, which has a good number of students of various nationalities, is considered as one of the best schools overseas for preparing students for American university entrance exams.

The school has tight security measures reportedly including a three-meter-high "blast wall," a "boom gate" in front of the complex, and protective security film over exterior windows to anticipate terrorist attacks.

Coinciding with the investigation of sexual assaults against kindergarten students last year, JIS was also hit by another news, following an announcement issued by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), which sought the publics assistance to identify the alleged victims of a suspected international child predator, William James Vahey, 64, who worked in the school from 1992 to 2002.

Vahey reportedly admitted to molesting boys his entire life and revealed he would give them sleeping pills before molesting them.

The FBI asked for the publics help to identify at least 90 potential victims of Vahey, who worked at 10 American and other international schools abroad for more than four decades before committing suicide on March 21, 2014, in Minnesota.

The child predator had been employed in international schools in many countries such as Iran (1976-78), Saudi Arabia (1980-1992), London (2009-2013), and Nicaragua (2013-March 2014).