Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Commission to call up 62 judges over ‘iffy’ rulings

Irawaty Wardany , The Jakarta Post , Jakarta | Tue, 12/22/2009

The Judicial Commission will summon 62 judges, out of the country’s total 6,300, for questioning in connection with “problem” rulings handed down in court.

“The judges will be questioned [in stages] over these rulings that we consider controversial and problematic,” Judicial Commission chairman Busyro Muqoddas said Monday at a discussion on “ Reflection of Corruption Eradication Efforts in 2009”.

He declined to elaborate on the judges and the kinds of rulings they had handed down.

Busyro previously said the commission had received more than 900 public complaints of problematic rulings nationwide.

“The total number of reports we’ve received this year is 968,” he said as quoted by Antara.

He added the complaints had to be evaluated first to classify the level, if any, of poor judgment on the part of the justices, before any recommendation to repeal or strike the rulings could be given.

As of Dec. 1, the Judicial Commission has recommended 28 contentious rulings be re-evaluated by the Supreme Court.

The court has not followed up on any of the recommendations to date.

Busyro said the court’s reticence to pick up the cases was mostly due to the fact the problems were related to judicial procedure.

He added “delinquent” judges had a knack for toying with the judicial procedure.

“The method used frequently by the judges is to disregard legal facts in the consideration of their rulings, or manipulate the legal interpretation so as to hand the defendant the minimum sentence or even acquit them,” he said.

Indonesia Corruption Watch (ICW) has also reported 56 judges to the commission for consistently letting suspected illegal loggers off the hook.

From 2005 to 2008, ICW data shows, 137 of 205 suspected illegal loggers were acquitted of all charges by the 56 judges in question.

The remaining 68 suspects were all convicted; however, only 10 suspects were sentenced to more than two years in prison, while 14 were given one- to two-year sentences and 44 were jailed for less than a year.

ICW deputy coordinator Emerson Yuntho said most of the judges dealing with these cases of illegal logging had been bought by higher-ups in the logging industry.

That was why most of the rulings in these cases were so favorable to the loggers, he said.

Emerson pointed out the case of Adelin Lis, who was acquitted in 2007 by the Medan District Court of corruption and illegal logging charges. During his trial, the prosecution had sought a 10-year sentence and a Rp 1 billion fine.

The acquittal triggered a public outcry across the country.

Police also tried to arrest Adelin on a separate charge of money laundering. However, he fled the country immediately after his acquittal.

“The ruling was iffy because the judges hadn’t even taken into consideration the testimonies of the witnesses, and there was no investigation in the field,” Emerson said.Two of the judges under scrutiny have been promoted by the Supreme Court, which is still holding back from censuring them.