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Constitutional Court judge declared guilty in code of ethics violation

Tempo - March 20, 2023

Fajar Pebrianto and Ima Dini Shafira, Jakarta – The Constitutional Court Honorary Council (MKMK) has officially handed a written warning to judge Guntur Hamzah in a case that involves the judge altering a Constitutional Court official verdict.

This sanction was delivered by Verdict No. 1/MKMK/T/02/2023 that stated Guntur – who was appointed by President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo on November 23 – had proven to have violated the code of ethics of constitutional judges.

The letter insists that this was in the name of integrity, which was read out by the plenary meeting at the Constitutional Court (MK).

MKMK argues that judge Guntur indeed had the right to rephrase the contents of the verdict under the pretense that it was made as a proposal to change and improve a decision within the scope of judicial power. However, the judge is still considered to have violated the code of ethics under a myriad of considerations.

Among a number of reasons, one of them is because the proposal to change the phrase was made amidst ongoing controversy over his appointment as a Constitutional Court judge to replace Aswanto.

Small changes with big implications

Zico Leonard Simanjuntak, who is the plaintiff for case No. 103/PUU-XX/2022, recalled the verdict inconsistency between the one that was read out by a constitutional judge and the copy that he received. Zico highlighted the changes in the aforementioned phrases.

"I felt there was something strange. I then started to carefully look into it. It turns out that the verdict that was read out stated 'thus' while the copy that I received had the word 'this' changed to 'in the future'," said Zico in a Youtube video published by Konstitusionalis TV, on January 28, 2023.

Zico explained that the change in phrases was significant as the phrase "thus" meant that the MK declared the replacement of judge Aswanto, which was not in accordance with Article 23 of the Constitutional Court Law, was unconstitutional.

However, Zico said that when the phrase 'in the future' is used then the MK considers that the replacement of judge Aswanto is a non-issue.

Aswanto was replaced by Guntur Hamzah who was appointed by President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo in November last year. Guntur's appointment as Constitutional Court Judge was stated in Presidential Decree No. 114 B/2022 concerning the Dismissal and Appointment of Constitutional Justices submitted by the Indonesian Parliament.

Aswanto's termination by members of the House was subjected to wide criticism, one of which came from the electoral watchdog, Association for Elections and Democracy (Perludem), that alleged the House of Representatives of committing a constitutional violation.

Source: https://en.tempo.co/read/1705091/constitutional-court-judge-declared-guilty-in-code-of-ethics-violatio