TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - The Judicial Commission's image has been tarnished with the recent arrests of a Bengkulu Corruption Court judge and an official in a series of sting operations conducted by the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) in September. In addition to advising the Supreme Court, the Judicial Commission's role is also to keep watch over judges.
Commission Chairman Aidul Fitriciada Azhari said they have been caught off guard. "Two years in office and I've seen two judges caught in sting operations," said Aidul, 49. Just last year Janner Purba, the Chief of Bengkulu's Negeri Kepahiang district court, was put behind bars on graft charges. And now, the Bengkulu corruption court judge Dewi Suryana has been arrested for the same offense.
Keeping tabs on 7,800 judges scattered across the archipelago is no easy task. Aidul said that the Commission usually only relies on high court judges to supervise the judges in their district.
Two weeks ago, Aidul agreed to meet Tempo's Raymundus Rikang, Maya Ayu and Reza Maulana at his office in Jalan Kramat Raya, Central Jakarta. He spelled-out his observations in the past two years: from judges who work in very limited conditions without proper facilities, to those who do not get adequately paid for the location and position of their post. "I'm not giving excuses here, but these conditions need our attention," he said.
Do the arrests in Bengkulu indicate weak supervision over judges?
The judicial commission does share that responsibility. Whatever the circumstances, we've been given the constitutional mandate to uphold and safeguard the integrity of judges. But we are not the only ones responsible, as the duty to provide judicial supervision lies with the supreme court. The judicial commission only provides supervision of ethics.
What is included in the ethics code for judges?
There are 10 criteria divided into the fundamental code of ethics, including those governing bad behavior such as intoxication, illicit affairs, etc. And there are those governing judicial technicalities related to verdicts, such as misspelling names. Errors often occur from 'copying and pasting'. Although that's the court clerks' job, judges must be aware as well.
How often do violations occur?
There have been 870 reports this year so far, and 36 cases were subject to sanctions. If multiplied by three, according to the number of judges on a panel, around 100 judges received sanctions.
What kind of sanctions?
It depends on the severity of the error according to joint regulation No. 2/2012 concerning the guidelines for code of ethics and conduct for judges. For example, in the Bengkulu case, the KPK's wiretapping revealed the possibility that the case began with the judge talking about the case outside of court, which violates the code of ethics. If bribery occurs, then it becomes a criminal offense.
Some say that the number of judges caught is only tip of the iceberg. What is your opinion?
The statistics still show a normal trend. There are those who have very bad behavior, while some behave extremely well. But the majority show normal behavior. There is s total of 100 delinquent judges out of approximately 7,800 judges in all of Indonesia. Even an advanced country like the US has more or less the same rate of prevalence, around 10 percent.
What was the result of monitoring towards Bengkulu Corruption Court judge, Dewi Suryana?
In 2014 we received signals questioning Suryana's professionalism. I cannot recall the details. At the time she was posted in the Liwa District Court in West Lampung. We investigated her, but didn't find any proof to go on. Later she was transferred to Bengkulu. You could say we were caught off guard.
If you were suspicious, why not report it to the KPK or the police?
We first enforce the code of ethics. For instance, suspending a judge must be done through the honorary council of judges and jointly ruled by the Supreme Court and the judicial commission. Then the case is given to the police. The judicial commission handles cases differently from the KPK. We are bound by principles to respect the profession of judges. We also must consider the aspect of confidentiality. We don't want a judge's dignity trampled on by an ongoing investigation.
How do you achieve a deterrent effect if the cases are handled quietly?
Through sanctions which will affect their careers. They will never become a chief justice. That's severe. The harshest sanction that we've imposed is dishonorable dismissal.
Won't public exposure make them think twice before committing an offense?
I believe we should wait until they are named as suspects. Especially if they have just been arrested. Take the Lampung judge. We will dismiss the person after the court finds her/him guilty. It will cause problems if we do that, and later on, the court finds them not guilty.
But the KPK's track record shows that they only act when they are backed by strong evidence.
Look at the case of an ad hoc judge with the initials HA who had been arrested in KPK's sting operation, but was later released due to lack of initial evidence. The news of his arrest was out already. Then how will his name be restored? The KPK should be held accountable for that.
What should the KPK do?
The problem is exposure. The Judicial Commission calls on the KPK to be prudent in announcing their operation results to the public, especially if it involves judges because their good names and reputation are on the line. It can create a stigma among the public. We do not doubt the KPK, but we hold different principles. Respecting judges' profession is important.
Read the full interview in this week's edition of Tempo English Magazine