Indonesia Passes ‘Ambiguous’ Anti-Corruption Court Bill

By webadmin on 01:06 am Sep 30, 2009
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Markus Junianto Sihaloho & Febriamy Hutapea

The House of Representatives on Tuesday passed into law what is considered to be a vague version of the controversial Anti-Corruption Court bill that leaves more questions than answers.

Under the version passed on Tuesday, the embattled Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) will retain its ability to prosecute corruption cases and the power to conduct wiretaps of suspects, although the Anti-Corruption Court would determine their admissibility.

The bill has stirred controversy in recent weeks. Opponents have framed it as an attempt to strip power from the KPK, which has been at the forefront of the country’s battle against corruption. Even President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono weighed in, saying the bill should not be rushed.

The House’s 10 factions unanimously passed the law in a sparsely attended plenary session just one day before its term expires after a final session today.

Minister of Justice and Human Rights Andi Mattalata, who attended Tuesday’s session, said the new law was important for maintaining the credibility of law enforcement and the eradication of corruption in Indonesia, two key goals of the Yudhoyono government.

“Through this law, the government is trying to lay a strong legal foundation for the establishment of the Anti-Corruption Court,” he said.

He added that stripping the KPK of the right to prosecute must come from an amendment to the law that created the KPK. The bill passed on Tuesday was originally intended to re-establish the Anti-Corruption Court’s legal basis.

A recent version of the bill would have stripped the KPK of its authority to prosecute corruption cases. The KPK has made many enemies in the House, the National Police and Attorney General’s Office because of its determined and successful prosecution of current and former officials from those bodies.

Although the KPK seems to have won the fight to keep its powers, activists are saying other aspects of the new law would still weaken it. For example, the new law requires the establishment of anticorruption courts in each of the country’s 33 provinces, meaning the KPK could no longer prosecute its cases in one special court in Jakarta, where it has had a 100 percent conviction rate.

For Jakarta, one such court would be established under the Central Jakarta District Court.

This was met with derision by anticorruption activists.

“We cannot trust any judges in the district courts,” said Agung Andri from the Indonesian Muslim Student Union, one of two student organizations that rallied against the bill outside the House building.

Indonesia Corruption Watch and several other anticorruption groups announced that they would file a request for a judicial review with the Constitutional Court.

Febri Diansyah, a legal researcher for ICW, said many articles of the bill failed to give clear authority to the antigraft court and left room for differing interpretations.