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The Jakarta Post
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Editorial: Judging the judges

  • The Jakarta Post

| Fri, December 14 2012 | 07:31 am

The dishonorable dismissal of Supreme Court justice Ahmad Yamani on Tuesday for commuting the jail sentence of a drug dealer deserves plaudits, but it will neither repair the damage done nor restore public faith in the judiciary power if no measures to ensure transparency and accountability within the highest judicial institution follow.

The punishment handed down on Yamani, not to mention the possible criminal investigation he may face, has given a further boost to the country’s fight against its judicial mafia, which reportedly involves institutions and individuals dealing with the delivery of justice.

But the tough law enforcement looks insufficient to clean the courtroom from the hanky-panky practices as there are many verdicts that appear to blatantly defy a commonly held sense of justice.

Yamani’s case shows the Supreme Court is not immune to backroom dealings sought after by people ready to buy justice. There were allegations in the past that some Supreme Court justices took bribes, but they were never proven, mostly because the cases were heard by fellow justices behind closed doors.

Although conducted internally, the investigation into Yamani involved an outsider — the Judicial Commission. That the members of the Supreme Court and Judicial Commission grouped under the Judicial Ethics Council found Yamani guilty underlines the need for outside supervision in maintaining the integrity and credibility of the judiciary.

It is important to note that it was the Judicial Commission that initiated the probe, while the leaders of the Supreme Court appear to have tried to protect Yamani by asking him to resign instead. Yamani’s surprise resignation last month, citing ill health, came after the media found that the jail sentence handed down by a Supreme Court panel for drug lord Hengky Gunawan had been changed from 15 years to 12 years. It is now up to the police to follow up on the council’s findings and consider whether the misconduct committed by Yamani constitutes a crime.

Even if Yamani is convicted, the Judicial Commission and Supreme Court still have many things to do to win back public faith. Rather than an end, the hearing of Yamani’s case should mark a start to a much-awaited move to flush out corrupt elements from the Supreme Court and the judiciary at large.

A Transparency International Indonesia (TII) survey in 2007 revealed that rampant bribery plagued the judiciary. Surprisingly, the initiative for acts of bribery came from within the institution. In the following year, the Political and Economic Risk Consultancy (PERC) surveyed judicial institutions in Asia and found Indonesia’s to be the most corrupt.

To help prove the perception wrong, first and foremost, a thorough investigation is needed to prove Yamani’s claim that he did not work alone. His argument very much makes sense as a verdict is a collegial product, although the ethics council said Yamani himself had altered the sentence. The panel of justices that heard Hengky’s appeal also included justices Imron Anwari and Nyak Pha.

If necessary, a further investigation can focus on why the panel of justices commuted the death sentence previously handed down to Hengky by another Supreme Court panel.

Several times, the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) has joined the move to fight corruption within the judiciary. Yamani’s dismissal should give the antigraft commission the pretext to take aim at other questionable judges.

We do need a powerful Supreme Court, but as pundits say, power and discretion without transparency will only result in corruption.


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