Fri, 22 Dec 2000

Legal aid identifies new trend in disputes

YOGYAKARTA (JP): The Yogyakarta Legal Aid Institute (LBH) has handled 461 cases this year, but only 46 percent of them have been settled, its director says.

Speaking at the Institute's year-end press briefing, Budi Santoso said that only nine of the settled cases were resolved in court. "The other cases were settled amicably."

Budi explained that most of the cases LBH Yogyakarta had handled were horizontal cases, involving disputes between large groups of people, which are legally more complicated. "Not all cases could be settled legally."

"There have been changes in the pattern of conflict. In the past vertical conflicts were dominant," he said, citing as example the cases between the people and bureaucrats, the military, or investors, it handled in 1998.

"Now, there are more horizontal cases, involving different groups of people or communities. It is not easy to settle horizontal cases, which generally involve a large number of people," Budi said.

This trend indicates that the current criminal code can no longer accommodate the legal cases existing within the community. "Therefore, we strongly suggest that the criminal code (KUHP) be revised to meet the present demand," he said.

According to Budi, LBH Yogyakarta handled 634 cases in 1999, or 28 percent more than this year. In 1998 his office handled 837 cases. "The number does decline, but the quality increases due to the changes in the pattern of conflict."

In another development, the Muhammadiyah University's Center of Legal Aid in Yogyakarta announced that legal reform had yet to be achieved.

In its year-end statements, the Center said that the year 2000 was gloomy with violence still being committed by military and police, anarchy among civilians, and the survival of a "court mafia".

The Center's secretary, Iwan Satriawan said that the "court mafia" had made people skeptical of justice in Indonesia. "Court mafia could be felt, but could not be proved legally."

Many legal practitioners and officials have denied that "court mafia" exists in the country.

Iwan called on the people to have more courage and report any violence conducted by military or police officers "for the sake of better law enforcement".

He also said that civilians had become more rebellious. (swa/23)