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Indonesia's Judicial Commission to protest lighter punishment for judges who ordered election delay

Jakarta Post - August 25, 2023

Nur Janti, Jakarta – The Judicial Commission (KY), an external judicial oversight body, will formally protest the Supreme Court's lighter punishment for three lower court judges who were responsible for a controversial ruling to delay the 2024 elections, at the Central Jakarta District Court.

Ignoring a June recommendation from the commission for a two-year suspension, the Supreme Court last week reassigned the three judges to district courts in Sumatra as a punishment for unprofessional conduct when trying a dispute between a newcomer party and the poll body last year.

The three lower court judges ruled in favor of the minnow Prima Party, granting it the chance to exercise its political right to contest next year's general election and effectively postponing the ballot by two years. But the ruling was reversed by an appellate court on the grounds that the lower court judges had overstepped their jurisdiction, thus offering legal certainty for the ongoing electoral process to continue apace.

The demotion of the three judges followed the Supreme Court internal monitoring body's findings that the judges made only "technical but reversible errors" so it decided not to punish them as harshly as the Judicial Commission has recommended, Supreme Court spokesperson Suharto told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday.

The commission began to probe the bench for potential ethics violations in March following a report lodged by activists and several civil society groups, such as the Center for Indonesian Law and Policy Studies (PSHK), which questioned the authority of the court over election disputes.

Around the same time, the Supreme Court internal monitoring body launched its own ethics investigation into the three judges.

Both entities have the power to monitor judges, but the Supreme Court often cites judicial independence to block external oversight.

Meanwhile, the findings of the commission's ethics probe are not binding but merely serve as a recommendation of punishments for judges who violate rules, and the commission has no power to execute or enforce the decisions. Since its establishment in 2005, the commission has had most of its recommendations ignored by the Supreme Court, in what activists see as an attempt by the latter to resist reforms.

"We will send the Supreme Court an official letter asking for an explanation [regarding the sanctions against the three judges]. But with or without us raising the questions, the Supreme Court is obligated to explain to the public more about their decision," commission spokesperson Miko Ginting said on Wednesday.

The civil lawsuit in the controversial lower court ruling was lodged last year by the little-known Prima Party, which was formed in 2021 and which has never contested an election. The party claimed it suffered unfair treatment and was denied the chance to contest the 2024 polls after it repeatedly failed the verification process at the General Elections Commission (KPU).

The Jakarta District Court ruled in favor of Prima in March of this year, ordering the KPU to cease all ongoing election activities for two years. The ruling angered many within the government and across the political spectrum, including political parties, which have recently been fueling the debate over a potential extension of the presidential term limit.

The KPU appealed the ruling to the Jakarta High Court, arguing that the lower court had no authority to make decisions on election disputes. The KPU won the case in April.

Source: https://asianews.network/indonesias-judicial-commission-to-protest-lighter-punishment-for-judges-who-ordered-election-delay