A call to advance restorative justice in Indonesia



Christophe Bahuet, Country Director UNDP Indonesia and
H.E. Rasmus A. Kristensen, Ambassador of the Royal Danish Embassy in Indonesia

As part of the partnership that Denmark and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) have with the local government in Palembang, we had the chance to visit the Palembang Rehabilitation Centre (LPKA). It is nationally renowned for its cutting-edge approach in guiding the inmates and it has even won a national award for the best Rehabilitation Centre.

From providing a dormitory-like facility, to providing educational services, computer classes and a library corner, inmates are given the chance to advance themselvesand reintegrate into the community seamlessly. We also had a chance to sit down and exchange information with the centre’s officials on how they are leading the government’s effort to implement restorative justice.

While retributive justice emphasizes retaliation, restorative justice focuses on reintegration and recovery of the situation between the offender, victim and  community members.

In Indonesia, the application of restorative justice was triggered by the soaring number of juvenile offenders and overcrowded correctional facilities. In 2017, the Correction Directorate General  said overcapacity occurred in 87 percent of correctional facilities. .This has had an impact on inmates' welfare and access to basic services. Overcrowded correctional facilities can also lead to increased crime rates due to strengthened networks between offenders.

Restorative justice is an integral part of the National Strategy for Access to Justice as well as the Medium Long Term Plan (RPJMN) and the National Law and Human Rights Development Plan 2015-2019. It is also part of Indonesia's commitment to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly Goal No. 16 onPeace, Justice and Strong Institutions.

The enforcement of Law No. 11 Year 2012 on juvenile criminal justice is a major milestone for Indonesia, as it adopts  restorative justice principles for juvenile cases. Now, with a policy framework in place, the implementation of the Law requires a paradigm shift, enhanced coordination, and stronger local government engagement.

It is crucial to ensure that law enforcers apply and the community accepts the restorative justice principles. Under restorative justice, law enforcers shift their punitive approach to restorative mechanisms.   Law enforcement agencies, including the police and the Attorney General’s Office play a vital role in ensuring that restorative justice principles work from the earliest stage so that cases involving juveniles do not go to court. Law enforcers canact as a facilitator for restorative settlement. This includes bringing together the offender and the victim to reach a mutual agreement, such as returning the offender back to the community.

Indonesia requires at least 8,000 trained law enforcers to promote restorative justice. However,as of 2017, only 979 legal enforcers have been certified. Article 105 of the Law No.11 Year 2012 stated that by 2019 the necessary infrastructure and trained lawenforcers must be in place for the implementation of restorative justice principles;therefore,  efforts to realize the mandate should be intensified.

Coordination between law enforcers is key to an effective implementation of restorative justice. The restorative justice process requires  engagement of legal institutions to ensure checks-and-balances among the legal enforcers in each process. Through the project "Improving Restorative Justice through Integration" (IRJI), the UNDP and the Embassy of Denmark are supporting the Indonesian Government in strengthening the rule of law and restorative justice throughout the country. The IRJI project supports  efforts to enhance coordination among law enforcement agencies as well as institutional capacity building for effective implementation of restorative justice in Indonesia.

Recently, IRJI organized a public discussion to clarify the roles and functions of each law enforcement agency. Officials from the Supreme Court, the Attorney General's Office, the National Police, the National Correctional Facility Directorate General and theSocial Affairs Ministry attended the public discussion. During the discussions, the Embassy of Denmark  shared the country’s experience in upholding  restorative justice.

Restorative justice is an important aspect of the Danish justice system. The Danish experience has shown that restorative justice prevents crime and conflict and benefits society as a whole. Restorative justice redresses and prevents grievances and conflicts in society and gives convicts a chance to return to society as well-functioning citizens.

In Denmark, convicts have to enroll in education, job or treatment programs while they are in jail. Furthermore, there is a special restorative focus on youth, as they are more vulnerable and susceptible to influences of radicalisation and extremism.  They, for example,benefit from shorter sentences and diversion to the welfare authorities.  Denmark is the fourth best in the world at rehabilitating convicts into society, with only 29 percent of convictsreturning to jail within two years.

Local Governments play a significant role in creating an enabling environment for the implementation of restorative justice at the provincial and district levels. This includes raising public awareness; driving effective coordination mechanism for law enforcers; and monitoring and evaluation of restorative justice implementation.

Implementation of restorative justice will not only bring harmony to the conflicting parties and the community in general, but it will also improve justice for all.


This article has also been published in The Jakarta Post

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