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Inauguration of new Indonesian judge proceed despite protests

Publication Date : 13-08-2013


Former law and human rights minister Patrialis Akbar will be inaugurated as the new Constitutional Court justice on Tuesday, despite opposition from activists who claim that his surprise appointment by Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was against the law.

Patrialis, the former National Mandate Party (PAN) lawmaker who was sacked as minister by the president, will replace justice Achmad Sodiki whose tenure ends on August 15. He will be inaugurated along with two other Constitutional Court justices who had been reelected: Akil Mochtar and Maria Faria Indrati.

On Monday, activists from seven civil society groups filed a lawsuit with the Jakarta State Administrative Court (PTUN) challenging the legality of Patrialis’ appointment.

They argued that his appointment was illegal, as it was done without a transparent and accountable selection process, which is required by the 2011 Constitutional Court Law.

The Constitution stipulates the Constitutional Court — formed in 2003 as part of the reform process following the fall of the authoritarian New Order regime in May 1998—must have nine justices and that the House of Representatives, the president and the Supreme Court are each entitled to appoint three justices to serve five-year tenures. But the 2011 Constitutional Court Law makes clear that the nomination of justice candidates should be conducted with transparency and participation from the public, so as to ensure an objective and accountable selection process.

“It is stipulated in the law that the selection of Constitutional Court justices should be conducted transparently. It is clearly said
that the names of the candidates should be publicly announced,” Bahrain, director of legal advocacy and campaigns at the Indonesia Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI) — which joined the movement to overturn Patrialis’ appointment — said on Monday.

Security Affairs Minister Djoko Suyanto said on Monday that the government did not break any rules in appointing Patrialis. “Don’t worry. The government has a strong reason when it appoints someone. The president is not reckless,” he said.

“There is no requirement [to announce the selection process to the public]. The important thing is the process has been carried out internally by the government.”

Current Law and Human Rights Minister Amir Syamsuddin backed the appointment of his predecessor.

“Six months before the tenure [of Achmad Sodiki] ends, the ministry coordinated with the Coordinating Political, Legal and Security minister and the State secretary,” Amir said in a recent statement. “And [we] have decided to propose to the president his name [Patrialis] to replace Achmad.”

The activists have requested that the PTUN issue a ruling ordering the postponement of Patrialis’ inauguration, but so far to no avail.

The activists accused the government of trying to slip in Patrialis’s appointment when people were busy celebrating Idul Fitri, scheduling his inauguration for only two days after the Idul Fitri holiday.

Former Constitutional Court chief justice Jimly Asshiddiqie has also criticised the President’s move, saying it went against good governance principles. “This is not about Patrialis. Without a transparent process, people are likely to question whoever is named,” he said.

Patrialis was sworn in as law and human rights minister in October 2009. During his tenure, the ministry was deemed “underperforming”. He was removed from Yudhoyono’s Cabinet in 2011.

Under Patrialis’ leadership, the Law and Human Rights Ministry was frequently criticised as being too “generous” in granting sentence reductions to graft convicts, especially when it gave a remission to former Bank Indonesia deputy governor Aulia Pohan, an in-law of Yudhoyono.

Human rights activist Haris Azhar supported the NGOs’ plan, saying Patrialis’ human rights views were also questionable, as he several times gave Christmas and Independence Day remissions to Pollycarpus Budihari Prijanto, the convicted murderer of human rights activist Munir Said Thalib.


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