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2013 a 'bleak' year for Aceh's ailing judicial system

Jakarta Globe - January 2, 2014

Nurdin Hasan, Banda Aceh – Enforcement of the law and human rights remained shaky throughout 2013 in Aceh, a legal advocacy group says.

Mustiqal Syah Putra, director of the Banda Aceh Legal Aid Foundation (LBH Banda Aceh), said in a press release obtained by the Jakarta Globe on Wednesday that his organization had recorded 10 violations of political and civil rights throughout the past year.

He said these included edicts related to religious minorities, as issued by the Banda Aceh Ulema Consultative Council (MPU) – an official body that advises the local government on Islamic affairs – which LBH Banda Aceh warned could spark violence in the community.

"The MPU has no legal authority to issue edicts on whether or not a person or a group [is part of] an illegal sect, as stated in Article 4 and Article 138 of the Aceh Provincial Law," Mustiqal said.

He added that there had also been seven incidents of violence between April and October 2013 related to next year's general elections. Of the seven cases, police only followed up on one, while ignoring the others, Mustiqlal said.

"This reflects the National Police's poor performance in enforcing the law and in handling cases related to political violence ahead of the general elections," he added.

LBH Banda Aceh also recorded five cases of violations related to economic, social and cultural rights – specifically in land rights, proper access to health care, employment and housing for victims of the December 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.

LBH Banda Aceh also investigated alleged corruption cases in the forestry sector last year. The investigations were conducted in Tamiang district and Southwest Aceh district, where the local administrations issued several concessions related to the exploration and exploitation of natural resources, especially in the forestry sector, that had high potential for corruption, the organization said.

"The government's poor supervision and the impotence of law enforcers leaves room for corruption in the management of natural resources," Mustiqal said, but did not elaborate on how many alleged corruption cases LBH Banda Aceh had discovered in its investigation.

The foundation also took it upon itself to evaluate the conduct of Acehs courts, and found that at least five cases last year concluded in rulings considered unfair.

This was up from the four cases highlighted by LBH Banda Aceh in 2012, an increase that the organization claimed showed that ethical violations committed by judges was a matter of growing concern and needed to be reined in.

Mustiqlal said that although public complaints and reports continued to be filed to the Judicial Commission, the government's court watchdog, law enforcement agencies in Aceh had demonstrated a lack of commitment in reforming the justice system.

"The justice system in Aceh is still corrupt, which subsequently victimizes the less fortunate – the poor," he said. "Laws are broken and ethics are breached by the same judges who are meant to regulate and uphold the law."

LBH Banda Aceh concluded that based on its investigations, studies and analysis, the process of democracy and protection of human rights in Aceh was less than satisfactory in 2013.