Saturday, May 19, 2007

Don't choose rotten judges, say activists

Thursday, May 10, 2007
The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Activists and observers are demanding that the Judicial Commission and the House of Representatives prioritize quality over quantity in selecting candidates for Supreme Court judgeship.

The Judicial Commission, as mandated by the Constitution, is responsible for selecting potential Supreme Court justices, who must then be screened by the House of Representatives through a fit-and-proper test.

To fill the six currently vacant positions on the Supreme Court, the commission recommended six candidates to the House of Representatives on Nov. 6, 2006. However, on Nov. 15, the House postponed the fit-and-proper test because Article 18 of the 2004 Law on the Judicial Commission requires at least three candidates for each vacant position.

As a result of this decision, the Judicial Commission held another selection round this year and fulfilled the House's demands by listing 16 more candidates from among the 105 applicants.

"We don't expect that the Judicial Commission will only look for quantity and sacrifice the quality of judges," said Emerson Yuntho, from Indonesian Corruption Watch (ICW), during a meeting between commission members and activists from the Judicial Watch Coalition on Wednesday.

"We are afraid that in order to avoid objections from the House, the commission will force itself to pass 12 new candidates, although they may not be qualified," Emerson said.

The Judicial Watch Coalition comprises 10 rights organizations including the ICW, the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras), the Institute for a Criminal Justice System, the Jakarta Legal Aid Institute and the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation.

The coalition requested that the commission not choose judges wishing only to see out their careers on the Supreme Court.

"If the commission forces itself to pass through any problematic candidates, we will have more problems and a worse court mafia than ever," Emerson said.

Citing the 2003 selection of members for the National Human Rights Commission, Ori Rahman from Kontras said the commission should avoid selecting incapable candidates.

Ali Nursahid, also from Kontras, said that considering the previous court's history of granting impunity to alleged rights violators, a careful investigation into the backgrounds of candidate justices is required.

"From three cases of human rights violations that have been tried, namely the Abepura, Tanjung Priok and East Timor cases, the Supreme Court, which should guard human rights enforcement, to the contrary perpetrated impunity upon the perpetrators," Ali said.

He urged the commission to base its selections on international standards such as the candidate's expertise in international law and human rights.

In response to activists' anxieties, the head of the commission, Busyiro Muqoddas, said the commission had learned from the first round of candidate selections and improved its methodology.

Busyiro said the unexpected decisions regarding the human rights cases were not only related to the intellectual capacities of the judges but also to their mentalities.

He agreed that the commission should prioritize quality over quantity, and that notions of quality should be based on clear standards and criteria. (02)

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