Law and Justice in Indonesia

Since the end of the New Order era, Indonesia has undertaken significant institutional and legal reforms aimed at creating a justice sector capable of delivering accountable government and a more equitable distribution of power and resources. The establishment of judicial independence through the so-called “one roof law”, introduction of the judicial review of legislation through the Constitutional Court and the establishment of multiple specialist courts and oversight Commissions for the judiciary, prosecutors and police, represents change on a significant scale.

Despite the scale of reform and significant donor investment, continued effort is needed to ensure that institutional changes bring justice closer to the people. Public aversion to the formal legal system remains high, leading to a preference for informal justice delivery systems, which themselves are often discriminatory and inconsistent with Constitutional human rights safeguards. The justice sector still faces challenges in resolving or preventing serious problems which impact upon local governance and economic development.

Justice sector reform initiatives have predominantly focused on formal state institutions, however, justice is not the exclusive purview of the state. Village leaders and traditional leaders are the primary dispute resolution actors in Indonesia, playing an active role in over 75% of disputes. Village level institutions have, however, suffered from thirty years of highly centralised governance. The justice needs of marginalized groups, particularly religious and ethnic minorities and women are often overlooked in village level dispute resolution systems. They require additional support and attention.

Criminality, land conflict and family disputes are the three most common types of disputes reported by communities. These types of justice sector issues have real impacts on the day-to-day livelihoods of Indonesians. With this in mind, it is important to simultaneously address both longer-term, wide-ranging institutional reform of the justice sector and immediate programs to enable vulnerable communities to enforce their rights and secure their livelihoods. The provision of justice services to the poor, vulnerable and marginalized can also help to build constituencies for demand for legal reform and contribute to the process of systemic change from below.

In recognition of these issues the Government of Indonesia has developed a National Strategy on Access to Justice. The Strategy examines how problems with rule of law can contribute to the existence of poverty. It outlines an approach to empowering the poor to realise their fundamental rights, either through formal or informal mechanisms, as a means to reducing poverty. Similarly, the Strategy emphasises that justice sector reform requires not only legal-technical solutions but also a socio-political approach. Key recommendations from the Strategy are being integrated into Indonesia’s National Medium-Term Development Plan (2010-2014).

The National Strategy on Access to Justice provides for a plan of action addressing eight key areas:

  1. Legal and Judicial Reform Sector
  2. Provision of Legal Aid
  3. Local Governance
  4. Land and Natural Resources
  5. Gender issues
  6. The rights of Children
  7. Labour reform, and
  8. Empowering the Poor and Disadvantaged.

Source: The World Bank


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