Constitutional Court judge a lifetime duty: Analysts

Jakarta Post, 17 April 2007

Tony Hotland, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

jakartapost_logoAny revisions to the Constitutional Court law should be focused on minimizing the influence political powers have on the court’s judges, observers told a discussion here Monday.

One possibility, they said, would be changing the selection mechanism concerning the court’s nine judges who have the final say on a range of issues including the annulment of laws, dissolution of political parties, election disputes and impeachment of the government.

The discussion coincided with the launch of a book by German analyst Petra Stockmann titled The New Indonesian Constitutional Court.

The book details the history of the court and the author praises it as being one of the country’s revolutions in law. In the book Stockmann also predicts future challenges the court may face.

Noted lawyer Todung Mulya Lubis said being a judge at the court should be a position held for life rather than the current five-year tenure for candidates determined by the President, the Supreme Court and the House of Representatives.

„The mechanism we have now spawns intense political bias and certain political rewards will ensue sooner or later. We need this court to be totally independent and be responsible to none other but the law,“ he said.

A feasible selection model, Todung said, would be the President selecting judges to undergo suitability and feasibility tests at the House.

Once nine judges were selected, he said, the position would be a lifetime commitment. A replacement would be sought if one of the judges died or resigned.

„The judges wouldn’t have to be indebted to political parties and there would be consistency in terms of interpreting the Constitution because there wouldn’t be different judges every five years,“ Todung said.

The director of the Foundation of the Indonesian Legal Aid Institute, Patra M. Zen, shared similar views, saying that such a system would distance judges from political intervention.

University of Indonesia analyst Arbi Sanit said proof judges were subject to political influence lies in a Constitutional Court verdict maintaining an article in the law on political parties that states political parties can dismiss their members in the House.

Plans to revise the 2003 law emerged after court verdicts annulling parts of laws concerning the Judicial Commission, the Commission on Corruption Eradication and Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

House member Benny K. Harman said revisions to the law would be predominately aimed at cutting back the jurisdiction of the court.

„Many House members feel that it is inappropriate that nine judges have the power to annul a law that has been worked out by hundreds of House members and the government,“ he said.

Such a move could lead to deliberations at the House to create another body to monitor the court, Benny said.

According to observers, another possibility would be for the court to only have the jurisdiction to review regulations that were essentially against the Constitution. <>

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