Subject: RI judiciary remains unable to uphold justice, NGO says

Received from Joyo Indonesia News

The Jakarta Post Monday, January 5, 2004

RI judiciary remains unable to uphold justice, NGO says

Muninggar Sri Saraswati, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The country's judicial institutions have failed to uphold justice for all, as many verdicts have been delivered without proper legal arguments and charges have been leveled at suspects without sufficient evidence, a judiciary watchdog has said.

"We found many cases in which verdicts were made on the basis of very weak legal arguments," coordinator of the Society of Indonesian Judiciary Monitors (Mappi) Asep Rahmat Fajar told a media conference over the weekend.

Mappi, which was founded by the University of Indonesia's school of law, held the conference to disclose its review of the performance of judicial institutions in 2003. The report was issued based on on-the-spot monitoring in district courts in Greater Jakarta and Cibinong, West Java, which, it claimed, could represent the general state of the judiciary in the country.

The watchdog's annual report said judges blamed prosecutors' lack of evidence for their decisions to exonerate defendants, which had occurred many times in corruption cases.

"Evidence is one of the most important things necessary to support legal arguments," the report said.

Mappi said Indonesian judges often delivered weak sentences in criminal cases due to the absence of guidelines, and ignored minimum sentences when it came to human rights trials.

The human rights tribunal acquitted 11 defendants in the 1999 East Timor mayhem and sentenced the remaining four to between three years and 15 years in jail. The convicts remain free, pending appeal.

"The court has obviously violated Law No. 26/2000 on human rights tribunals, which sets the minimum sentence at 10 years in jail," Asep said.

Mappi also highlighted the disparity in sentences handed to convicts in drug abuse, dealing or smuggling cases.

Data collected by Mappi in courts in Central, South, East, West and North Jakarta and in Cibinong revealed that the judges had no clear arguments to support the disparity in sentences.

Among hundreds of drug-related cases, Mappi recorded that district courts in Jakarta sentenced defendants to between four months and 11 months in jail for violating article 78 of Law No. 22/1997 on drugs and narcotics, which is punishable by a maximum 10 years in jail and a Rp 500 million fine.

The courts also jailed defendants for four years to 20 years for violating article 82 of the law, which sets the minimum jail sentence at 20 years and the fine at Rp 1 billion.

"This revealed that the courts tended to deliver lenient sentence for an offense punishable by 10 years in jail," Asep said.

The disparity, he said, was a result of the absence of Supreme Court guidelines for courts on issuing verdicts.

"This situation may result in a decline of public trust in law enforcement, which has been indicated by the growing number of people who take the law into their own hands, including by attacking the courts," Asep warned.

Mappi also criticized judges for their failure to adhere to their code of professional conduct.

A monitor with Mappi disclosed that several judges fell asleep during trials, were absent during hearings or opted to speed up trials in criminal cases that were punishable by custodial sentences of five years or more.

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