Indonesia’s Constitutional Court annuls articles on insult against president

alerts-button-1.jpgThe Alliance of Independent Journalist (AJI) Indonesia welcomes a Constitutional Court ruling stating that three articles of law prohibiting insult of the president – namely, Article 134, Article 136 bis, and Article 137 of the Criminal Code – are not legally binding because they violate the 1945 Constitution.

According to local news site “Tempo Interaktif”, in July 2006, lawyer Eggy Sudjana and political activist Pandapotan Lubis applied for a constitutional review of the articles, which they said violated Article 27 point (1), Article 28, Article 28E point (2) and point (3), Article 28F, and Article 28j point (1) and point (2) of the 1945 Constitution.

In its ruling on the matter on 6 December 2006, the Constitutional Court stressed that the provisions were invalid because they were overridden by the principle of equality before the law. The provisions also curbed freedom of expression, freedom of information and the principle of legal certainties. The provisions created legal uncertainties because of its arbitrary interpretation of protests and statements of opinion as criticisms or insults against the president.

However, “Tempo Interaktif” reports that the verdict was not unanimous, with four out of nine judges on the panel dissenting. They viewed that Eggy and Pandapotan’s cases were about the legal implementation by investigators, not about the Constitution.

“Kompas Daily” quoted Eggy Sudjana’s attorney as saying that the ruling was a constitutional victory for a society that upholds democracy.

AJI Indonesia President Heru Hendratmoko said, ”We welcome the ruling of the Constitutional Court because so far, the provisions on insults against the president in KUHP have been used to protect government officials from criticisms expressed by the people.”

AJI’s records show that the articles prohibiting insult against the president did not only ensnare students and activists, but also journalists. Supratman, executive editor of “Rakyat Merdeka”, was charged with insulting the president for publishing a news report that was deemed to be insulting to former President Megawati. The South Jakarta District Court sentenced him to six months on probation. Supratman is appealing the verdict.

AJI Indonesia urges the Constitutional Court to be proactive in reviewing provisions in the Criminal Code which have the potential of violating freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, freedom of the press and other human rights.

AJI Indonesia demands that efforts to revise the criminal law through the drafting of the new Criminal Code should reject provisions that control freedom of expression and freedom of the press.

AJI Indonesia wishes to remind the Indonesian government that since it accepted the need to protect human rights in the Constitution through the second amendment of the 1945 Constitution and the ratification of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights through the Law No. 12 Year 2005, it is obliged to streamline the national legal system to respect and protect human rights.

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