Mon, 24 Feb 2003

New commission urgent to combat judicial corruption

Zakki Hakim, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The National Law Committee (KHN) has urged the government, the House of Representatives and the Supreme Court to immediately form a judicial commission to eradicate the endemic corruption in the judiciary.

In its statement released on Saturday, the committee blamed the rampant corruption in the judiciary on the absence of an external monitoring institution, while an internal controlling body was not effective and tended to protect judges alleged of committing graft under the spirit of the corps.

"Nowadays, the judicial situation in the country is chaotic. A judicial commission must be established to restore order," KHN chairman J.E. Sahetapy told The Jakarta Post on Saturday.

"The commission should have the authority to investigate misconduct of judges and to administer heavy punishment, including dismissal," he said.

KHN, which was formed by Abdurrahman Wahid's administration in 2000, is mandated to assist the President in deliberating policies on legal matters.

Committee member Frans Hendra Winarta said that the public could not rely on the current internal monitoring of judges conducted by the Supreme Court to curb corruption in the judiciary.

"The Supreme Court will not be able to carry out its task considering the fact that it has a backlog of 14,000 cases waiting for verdicts," he said.

The establishment of a judicial commission is stipulated in Law No. 25/2000 on a national development program.

The amended 1945 Constitution states that the judicial commission has the authority to uphold the dignity of judges, which according to KHN implies that the commission will play a strong role in eradicating judicial corruption.

"KHN is urging the government, the House and the Supreme Court to discuss a judicial commission bill as soon as possible," Frans said.

Zain Badjeber, spokesman for the House legislative committee, said, the House had already proposed a bill on judicial commission to the government and was now waiting for its response.

"The government may be discussing changes to the bill and the ministry which will represent the President in the bill deliberation in the House," Zain said.

The judicial commission bill stipulates that the commission has the responsibility to formulate a judicial code of ethics, control judges behavior and recommend sanctions against judges to the Supreme Court and the House.

The sanctions, ranging from a written reprimand to dismissal, will be executed by the Supreme Court after consulting the House, says the bill.

It also suggests that a candidate for the commission member must be between 40 years and 68 years of age, with 10 years of relevant experience. The House selects the commission members, encouraging public participation in the nominations.

In its statement, KHN also agreed to the planned fusion of the Public Officials' Wealth Audit Commission (KPKPN) into the new, more powerful Commission for Corruption Eradication (KPK) because the latter will be allowed to take over an investigation from the police and prosecutors and is not allowed to stop the probe until the legal proceedings are over.