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ICC Note

The below article discusses the corrupt nature of the courts in Indonesia and how the government is responding to this corruption. To Christians, this was made apparent in the case of the three women arrested for holding Bible classes in their homes. The classes were held with the permission of the children’s parents, however Islamic radicals had the arrested nonetheless. The judges found the women guilty because the courtroom was packed with radicals chanting that the women should be guilty, and if they were not found guilty, the judges would then be at risk.

Justice relies on Court’s absolute respect for rule of law

Indonesia Watch (from The Jakarta Post)

To view the whole article, click here: Justice Relies on Court’s Respect for Rule of Law

The Judicial Commission is drafting a government regulation in lieu of law to reevaluate all the Supreme Court justices as part of judicial reform. The commission’s chairman Busyro Muqoddas shared the reasons and objectives of the regulation with The Jakarta Post’s Tiarma Siboro and Dwi Atmanta.

Question: What are the reasons behind the plan to reevaluate all 49 Supreme Court justices?

Answer: The Judicial Commission’s analysis has concluded that corruption in the country has become chronic in the extreme. It spreads in a systematic way and involves so many groups and individuals. Vote-buying is rife in regional elections, which is just an example of how corruption has infested our society, ranging from urban areas to villages. Corruption is a threat to our economy, as many investors have moved their capital outside of the country. The businesspeople abandon the country because they do not have legal protection. As we know, the rule of law also depends greatly on judges. At this point the problem arises, because there are some corrupt judges, who trade verdicts for either money or certain positions. This is an undisputed fact and a phenomenon that has long prevailed in the country. The recent survey by Transparency International ranked Indonesia the sixth most corrupt country in the world, while judicial corruption in Indonesia is worst among 19 Asian countries surveyed. From a sociological point of view, therefore, we can assume that judicial corruption in Indonesia has reached an alarming status. This is an emergency situation that needs extraordinary measures to tackle it. This is also why we need a regulation in lieu of law. Our analysis three months ago suggested that we need judicial reform, which should start from the Supreme Court. At the same time, the Supreme Court is facing allegations that it abets corruption.

Why should judicial reform start from the Supreme Court?

The Supreme Court is the place where efforts to seek justice come to an end. It is therefore the machine of judicial corruption. The bribery case involving the court’s employees revealed by (businessman) Probosutedjo tells us how such employees are not afraid of asking for bribes. The absence of fear indicates the weak leadership and management at the Supreme Court. After a series of discussions with competent people, we concluded that we require a breakthrough. We proposed the idea of reevaluating the justices to the President and the House of Representatives in our year-end report. But we also suggested improvement in the salaries of judges because it is impossible to build a clean judicial system if judges are paid poorly. We proposed that judges at district courts get a minimum of Rp 7 million (US$736) per month, judges at high courts receive Rp 15 million and Supreme Court justices Rp 30 million. The pay includes a book/reading allowance, because judges need to read up to broaden their minds to learn more about the principles of law. Currently, a judge candidate earns only Rp 950,000, which is far from enough even to live on, even in a small town.

What does the draft regulation look like?

The spirit of the regulation is reform. The evaluation and selection process is just a mechanism, through which we set certain qualifications for justices that we require. We will look at moral integrity, track records, competence and wealth reports of the justices. Through the regulation in lieu of law, we will completely reassess the justices, who must submit reports and undergo an interview, which will be accessible to the public. We will also announce their names publicly, to enable the public to scrutinize them. The public can inform us of their objections to the justices’ renomination as well the evidence they present on their own accountability. The assessment team will comprise 18 people from the Judicial Commission, experts and the public. We expect the process to finish in six months from the time the regulation comes into effect.

This proposal has met with challenges. How tough is Supreme Court resistance?

Not all justices are resisting. There have been some informal talks with the justices regarding the reform moves. But resistance is commonplace when it comes to a reform movement. The esprit de corps among judges is very solid, and they have long been an institution that is immune from external control. Judicial power in this country is considered untouchable, which is against democracy. The judiciary has to uphold democracy, meaning it must be subject to controlling mechanisms. The Judicial Commission does recognize external supervision.

Will the judicial reform reach judges at lower courts?

The reevaluation of the justices must send a message to judges at lower courts and teach them a lesson. But we are also preparing draft amendments to the Judicial Commission and Supreme Court laws that will shift the supervisory function of judges from the Supreme Court to the Judicial Commission. Internal monitoring within the judiciary only strengthens the esprit de corps. Ideally, the control mechanism falls in the hands of the Judicial Commission, which is independent. The drafts will be ready in August, when we celebrate our first anniversary. Judges can no longer get away with selling verdicts once the laws are amended.

The Judicial Commission has been accused of intervening in the judiciary’s independence, as was the case in the legal fight for the Depok mayoral post.

We have never annulled a verdict nor are we able to. But we have to look at a verdict to inquire whether the judges uphold the principle of impartiality and the rule of law. Examining a verdict is inevitable for us when it comes to the public’s widespread disappointment with a ruling. It then is up to the Supreme Court whether to go with us. The problem arises when people object to a Supreme Court ruling, while almost nothing can be done because it is final. Our legal instruments do not allow a challenge to the final verdict to occur, so the pursuit of justice depends entirely on the Supreme Court’s absolute, unwavering respect for justice and the rule of law.