Accountable Judiciary, Is It Possible?

Jul 12, 2016

Money justice is not justice. Justice obtained through money game is not justice. The statement was made by Christophe Bahuet Director of United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Indonesia, following repeated bribery in our judicial body.

Christophe expressed his view in a discussion at the University of Indonesia (UI) Post-Graduate Building, last week. In the last few months, the Indonesian judiciary has been rocked by subsequent arrests of court officials for alleged case related bribery. It started with the arrest of Supreme Court staff Andri Tristianto Sutrisno, then the Central Jakarta District Court registrar Edy Nasution, in a bribery case allegedly involving Supreme Court Secretary who was also Chairman of the Supreme Court Bureaucracy Reform Team, Nurhadi. Nurhadi, who had been prevented from travelling abroad, had to go through multiple questionings by the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK).

The latest case was the arrest of the North Jakarta District Court registrar with the initial R by the KPK on Wednesday (15/6).

However, the condition of the judiciary in Indonesia which is marred by "alleged bribery practices" was not highlighted in the March 2016 UNDP-Sustain Program report, a 10-million-euro project funded by the European Union.  

The program which just started in November 2015 showed a positive trend on transparency and accountability of the judiciary. UNDP, among other things, promoted the use of information technology for case tracking at the Supreme Court, which earned praise.

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The use of technology is inevitable and it really helps the transparency of the judiciary in Indonesia. Cases published directly targeted issues that had existed in the judiciary in Indonesia. The public can directly access verdicts of the Supreme Court on its website and track progress of cases. It provides many benefits for the Indonesian judiciary," said Christophe.

The Sustain project prioritizes improvements in four sectors, namely oversight, training of judges in the field of environmental and fisheries laws, personnel management, and development of a case tracking system.

Currently, the full verdicts of the Supreme Court can be accessed on its website, not only the excerpts. Development of case handling can be monitored through case tracking system which can be utilized by parties in litigation, advocates, or the public in general. This is a step forward by the Supreme Court in ensuring transparency.

However, the good effort seems to be drowned by the news that many court staff and judges who were arrested for alleged bribery and corruption.


Chief Justice Hatta Ali on various occasions mentioned, this condition makes all the achievements and accomplishments of the Supreme Court have little meaning in the eyes of the public. The Supreme Court’s efforts to achieve supreme justice are in vain because there are Supreme Court judges and staff who are involved in money game. "Haven’t we done enough, why are there still corrupt officials that undermine the credibility of the Supreme Court?” he said in March, after delivering his end of year report in Jakarta.

Other countries

The Chief’s disbelief and disappointment represent the reality of the Supreme Court today.

It experienced a systemic problem, from top to bottom, which cannot be solved with the application of information technology alone.

Based on the UNDP report, it is important for Indonesia to learn from other countries. Nigeria, a country that is also supported by UNDP, managed to reduce its judicial bribery. The number of lawyers and citizens who bribed court officials dropped dramatically between 2002-2007. The number of lawyers who bribed court officials dropped from 77 percent to 16 percent, while residents who bribed court officials fell from 43 percent to 2 percent.

The improvements were achieved as a result of the strong political will and support of citizens for the improvement of the judiciary. Nigeria, a country battered by separatist and violent Boko Haram group, was capable of making history by increasing the credibility of the judiciary in the public eye. Lawyers who believed that the judiciary was intervened by the government reached 50 percent in 2002 and that figure dropped to 24 percent in 2007. Judges who perceived the placement of positions in the judiciary was influenced by politics instead of meritocracy was only 8 per cent in 2007, which was previously 19 percent in 2002.

The breakthrough came because all relevant parties (stakeholders), ranging from representatives of the government and the judiciary, sat together to identify problem and conduct evaluation. Subsequently, the weak sides of the judiciary were improved, especially addressing political intervention.

Another example that can be followed by Indonesia is Somalia, a poor country in Africa which judiciary was damaged by judges who cannot be trusted. In contrast to Nigeria which solved the issues by sitting together to discuss the problems, Somalia immediately knew that the main problem was the professionalism of the judges. A Judicial Commission was formed comprising dedicated supervisors (inspectors). The Commission responded to complaints of users of the judiciary and gave firm sanctions against corrupt judges. Judges who were proven accepting bribes and giving verdict not in accordance with the principles of justice were dismissed.

The public began to trust the court. The people did not hesitate to litigate in court, because they had judges who they can trust. If a judge is corrupt, the Judicial Commission will sanction the judge. This is reflected in the number of cases rising from year to year, i.e. 7,308 cases in 2012, 9227 cases (2013), and 10.428 cases (2014). It is accompanied by increased number of request for legal aid by citizens, namely 6,577 clients in 2012, 7915 clients in 2013, and 8927 clients in 2014.

What about Indonesia? UNDP-Sustain Project Manager Gilles Bianchi said there was a failure in the mechanism of supervision of judges. Internal supervision by the Supreme Court and external oversight by the Judicial Commission are extremely weak. The Supreme Court’s oversight body is in fact under the Supreme Court secretariat.

Ideally, the internal oversight body should be independent and directly responsible to the Chief Justice. On the other hand, the performance of the Judicial Commission needs to be improved.

(RINI KUSTIASIH - Kompas 16/06/2016)

*The article is translated from Indonesian

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