Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Loopholes in logging laws: Expert

Loopholes in logging laws: Expert

Desy Nurhayati, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta 13th November 2007

Legal experts have recommended improvements to the country's regulations on forestry, saying current laws are contradictory provide loopholes for illegal logging activities.

In a discussion on forestry laws on Tuesday, experts said improvements were needed "to avoid misperceptions by law enforcers" around types of forestry crimes and the implementation of criminal lawsuits against illegal loggers.

"Regulations on forest concession have instead triggered illegal logging (as well as) different interpretations among law enforcers," legal expert Bambang Widjojanto said.

"The regulations have caused (inertia) in (the) fight against forestry crimes."
Bambang said there were inconsistencies in forestry laws around the definition of industrial forest areas.

And he said this had caused "difficulties in determining types of charges by law enforcers toward those who allegedly committed to forestry crimes".

"Changes in the laws have made it difficult for law enforcers to decide whether a logging activity ... (is) a violation against the law."

Bambang said the recent acquittal of logging boss Adelin Lis, along with suspects involved in similar cases, was disappointing.

He said such decisions breached environmental efforts and would see forest destruction issues continue to rise.

Adelin was freed of all charges by the Medan District Court in North Sumatra.
He was proven not guilty of illegal logging charges on the grounds his company had obtained a forest concession permit.

But Komariah Emong, criminal law expert from Padjajaran University, said he agreed with the court's decision.

"Prosecutors and judges have to be certain of their charges, and not only justify the permit".
Executive director of environmental group Greenomics, Elfian Effendi, questioned never-investigated illegal logging practices in forest conservation areas.

"The cases of illegal logging in conservation areas had never been touched on, despite the fact they are clear violations of existing laws," Elfian said.

He said the cases that remained untouched were "proof of discrimination in law enforcement against forestry crimes" and said there were "interests behind the cases".

Elfian cited illegal logging activities in the Leuser National Park in Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam and Sebangau National Park in Central Kalimantan.

Suparto Wijoyo, an expert on environmental laws from Airlangga University, said the core problem was a lack of supervision across logging practices.

"After issuing permits on forest concessions, the Forestry Ministry and local administrations should be responsible for further supervision to ensure permits are used appropriately," Suparto said.

The Forestry Ministry said it had issued forest concession permits for 10 million hectares, but only three million hectares had been realized