Thursday, 2 April 2009

Top court ‘too soft’ on graft, illegal logging

Irawaty Wardany , The Jakarta Post , JAKARTA | Thu, 04/02/2009

The Supreme Court has come under fire for being “too soft” when dealing with cases involving corruption and illegal logging.


An annual performance report released Wednesday by the Supreme Court shows that it exonerated almost 70 of 205 corruption suspects and 36 of nearly 100 others convicted by lower courts of illegal logging offences in 2008.

The outcome was defended by Supreme Court chief justice Harifin A. Tumpa at the announcement of the report at his office in Jakarta.

He said there must have been “some considerations” for why judges decided to acquit the suspects.

“Each judge must have his or her own reasons for that [acquitting suspects],” Harifin told reporters.

The Supreme Court has spent a long time under the public spotlight for rampant “judicial mafia practices” in the nation’s top judiciary institution.

Legal researcher from Indonesia Corruption Watch (ICW) Febri Diansyah said there were two interpretations that could be taken from the report.

“Either the suspects indeed deserved to be cleared of all charges or some judges were merely ‘playing’ with their cases,” he said.

Febri said the report should have encouraged the Supreme Court to investigate the legal reasons behind judges’ decisions to acquit suspects.

“Otherwise, we could say that the court’s commitment to eradicating corruption is still quite poor,” he said. “We could also fairly conclusively say the court’s determination to reform is nonsense”.

The strategy adopted to fight illegal logging is also weak, Febri said, considering such a high number of suspects were freed and the main players in the cases have never been publicly revealed.

Separately, a legal expert from the University of Indonesia, Rudi Satrio, said the public had a right to know the basis for the exonerations.

“We cannot say the Supreme Court does not support the fight against corruption simply based on the high number of suspects that have been acquitted,” he said.

However he criticized the Supreme Court for not making information related to the cases open to the public so they could make up their own minds about the judges’ decisions. “It is not out of ordinary for a judge to acquit a suspect, we simply need to know the reasons behind it,” he said.

The report also shows that 12 corruption suspects were sentenced to less than a year in jail, which according to Febri violated the 1999 anticorruption law.

“The law stipulates that the minimum sentence for a corruption suspect is one year in prison,” he said.

If a lesser sentence is handed down, then the Judicial Commission and the Supreme Court must evaluate the judges in question, he claimed.