Eighteen years have passed since the start of judicial reform process in Indonesia, but corruption, collusion and nepotism in judicial system are still rampant; external interference remains; court process is still costly; and there are issues with consistency and quality. Despite numerous breakthroughs to make courts more transparent, accountable, and capable of providing the best public service, the public in general still finds it hard to trust judicial system.
The strings of problems raise the question of what are the lessons learned from the reform process? Who still get removed and excluded from the access to court and justice, why did it happen, and how to create inclusive court and justice policies? How do we face the challenges of justice reform in the future?
With these questions in hand, PUSKAPA participated in Indonesia Judicial Reform Forum initiated by The Institute for Research and Advocacy for Independent Courts (LeIP). With several other institutions --Indonesia Corruption Watch (ICW), Institute for Criminal Justice Reform (ICJR), University of Indonesia's Indonesian Judicial Watch Society (Mappi FHUI), and Center of Legal and Policies Studies (PSHK) -- the forum gathered judicial reform activist, stakeholders, civil society, scholars, and legal practitioners to discuss and address the challenges.
The IJRF 2018 had the theme of “Measuring the Impact of Legal Reform to the Judicial Service Quality.” The theme was based on several considerations. First, it was the first ever for IJRF to be held, so the forum was expected to lay out the foundations of regular discussions between executors and stakeholders of justice reform. Second, court service is the area that is often related to justice for the people, with the main determining factor of public trust toward judicial institution is public service by the court.
In the forum, PUSKAPA organized a panel discussion called “Access to Justice for Vulnerable Groups.” The panelists were Sipora Purwanti (Program Manager and Advocacy Coordinator of the People with Disabilities Advocacy and Integration Group/SIGAB) in Yogyakarta), Nani Zulminarni (National Coordinator of The Empowerment of Female Heads of Households Program/PEKKA), Santi Kusumaningrum (PUSKAPA Director), Pratiwi Febry (Public Attorney of Jakarta Legal Aid Institute/ LBH Jakarta), and Diah Sulastri Dewi (Justice of Lampung High Court, Member of Supreme Court’s Working Group on Women and Girls), with Choky Ramadhan, Executive Director of MaPPI FHUI as moderator.
This panel discussed rampant discrimination by court employees against vulnerable groups represented by the speakers: women, children, differently-abled people, and people who seek help from LBH Jakarta. Santi Kusumaningrum urged everyone to never stop talking about what justice means and which parties are vulnerable. She said poor people, those living in remote areas, and people with special needs are indeed vulnerable, but we should not forget others who are vulnerable because of their social identity, such as LGBT people, indigenous community, and other unidentified groups.
The forum talked over several cases, such as discrimination by court staff against women; the need for interpreters for differently-abled people, and judges; and the low number of social workers or community supervisor. We have to admit that the judicial and legal systems in Indonesia have yet to take side with the groups the society find hard to understand and accept.
“The lawmakers in the parliament already have the inclination to get rid of the groups they don’t like through criminalization. As a citizen, I can only rely on the court or the press. But if the court is not sensitive with the needs of vulnerable people, I’d say we’re doomed,” Santi said, voicing other panelists’ concerns.
Diah Sulastri Dewi supported Santi’s statement, saying that the court is prepared for legal reform and cooperation with all stakeholders, to realize an inclusive judicial system.
The panel emphasized the significance of filling regulatory void (both national regulation or internal regulation in relevant institutions) to support access to justice for vulnerable groups. The regulations must be followed by sufficient implementation monitoring to make all parties accountable. Increasing and strengthening human resource capacity are also important in handling cases involving vulnerable groups, considering their needs to have special counseling. The panel also asserted the urgency of inclusive policy reform supported by inclusive evidence finding process. Data collection process must consider and recognize the special needs of vulnerable groups, in terms of method, sampling, and research ethics. Moreover, the panelists raised the critical point of the Supreme Court to expand legal aid access for children, women, differently-abled people, faith and gender minorities, and other vulnerable groups.
The two-day IJRF Conference produced eight-page recommendations that have been submitted to the Supreme Court, the Presidential Staff Office, and the National Law Development Agency. The IJRF disclosed the external factor affecting judicial reform agenda: supports from all stakeholders. Therefore, judicial institutions, particularly the Supreme Court, cannot work alone in conducting judicial reform. They require strengthening of coordination and communication between judicial institutions and executive body, legislative body, scholars, and legal practitioners. Above all, inclusive judicial system must be backed by inclusive, evidence-based policies.