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Taming the Lion

Disabled Airline Passenger Wins Discrimination Suit Against Lion Air

Bali News: Indonesia, Bali, Lion Air, discrimination suit, Ridwan Sunarti, Department of Transportation, Angkasa Pura
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The National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM) has expressed it highest appreciation to the Central Jakarta Court's decision to rule against the Indonesian air carrier Lion Air,  PT Angkasa Pura -the government-owned airport management company, and the Ministry of Transportation in a case brought against the three for discrimination against disabled travelers .

As reported by, the commissioner of Komnas Ham, Saharuddin Daming, said on Thursday, December 8, 2011: “ The decision is spectacular. We give our highest appreciation to the panel of judges who ruled in this case.”

According to Daming, the court’s ruling demonstrates that the law in Indonesia is prepared to accommodate respect for human rights, in particular the rights of the disabled. He said the decision was all the more remarkable as it was made in the mist of a general decline in respect for human rights and a lack of law enforcement in protecting civil liberties.

“This decision has become a precedence for the law and has taught the public not to ignore the handicapped and disabled,” proclaimed Daming.

He also expressed his appreciation for the judges who punished the Ministry of Transportation for failing to control and supervise the country's airline industry in the area of handicapped rights as required under Section 134, paragraph 3 of Air Transportation Law Number 1 of 2009.

Daming told the press that Lion Air has the right to appeal the courts decision. Adding: “To file an appeal is their right. However, this will reflect they do not respect human rights.”

Lion Air was ordered in the case by the court to pay Rp. 25 million (US$2,780) and costs as well as publish an apology in a national newspaper. The panel of judges ruled Lion Air committed discrimination against passenger Ridwan Sumantri on April 22, 2011, causing the disabled man both material non-material losses.

Upon hearing the court’s ruling, the legal counsel for Lion Air, Nusirwin, immediately declared his client’s intention to appeal the decision. Nusiwin said the decision of the judges exceeded the amount sought by the plaintiff in the case, creating a decision that he sees as divorced from the facts presented before the court. He claimed Sumantri had failed to demonstrate to the court the losses he sustained in the alleged incident.

The Incident

The suit reportedly originated when Sumantri, an activist for disabled rights, who is himself wheelchair-bound, was compelled by Lion Air to sign a release before being allowed to fly. That exemption absolved the airline of any responsibility in connection with his flight and affirmed Sumantri's responsibility to other passengers should his condition pose a threat to fellow travelers.

Samantri objected to the ultimatum issued by the airline when he was a passenger on April 11, 2011, insisting such steps were completely unnecessary in that his condition was not contagious. Filing suit against the airline for discrimination, he also sought damages form PT Angkasa Pura who he argued provided poor service on the ground at the airport for disabled passengers. Also named in his suit was the Ministry of Transportation who he asserted failed to monitor and supervise the airline’s treatment of the disabled.

Ridwan Sunatri was flying from Jakarta to Denpasar (Bali) on Lion Air flight JT12 departing at 13:05 on April 21, 2011. The Airlines staff refused to fly the disabled man unless he agreed to sign the elaborate releases prepared by the carrier.

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