Doubts over neutrality of presiding judge in judicial review of Munir case

Source – November 1, 2007
Supreme Court Chief Justice Bagir Manan (Detik)
Supreme Court Chief Justice Bagir Manan (Detik)

M. Rizal Maslan/Muhammad Nur Hayid, Jakarta – The Solidarity Action Committee for Munir (Kasum) doubts the neutrality of Supreme Court Chief Justice Bagir Manan as the presiding judge in the judicial review of the Munir murder case. The fact that Manan was repeatedly mentioned as “one of us” in a tape recording of a conversation between former Garuda Indonesia Airlines Executive Director Indra Setiawan and Garuda pilot Pollycarpus Budihari Priyanto has given rise to serous concerns.

“We believe that this indication is not a matter of speculation. Because the truth is that it was the supreme court appeal decision that [previously] released Polly[carpus] from the conviction [on charges] of murdering Munir”, said the coordinator of the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) Usman Hamid during a press conference at the Kontras offices on Jl. Borobudur in Jakarta on Thursday November 1.

Also present at the press conference was Munir’s widow Suciwati and the former secretary general of the National Human Rights Commission Asmara Nababan.

Usman said that attention needs to be given to the recording of the conversation between Setiawan and Priyanto, bearing in mind that it represents one of the pieces of new evidence that will be examined before the court. It is very possible that Manan’s objectivity in examining the evidence could be compromised by personal interests, as referred to by Priyanto in the conversation.

Kasum believes that although on several occasions Manan has denied this and guaranteed that he will not be influenced by Priyanto’s statements, Manan should avoid any direct involvement in the case. “In this way, the objectivity of the examination in the judicial review will be better guaranteed”, said Usman.

Irrespective of Manan’s position as the presiding judge in the judicial review, Kasum is asking Supreme Court to make the hearing open to the public in order to demonstrate that any decisions that taken is credible and just. The Supreme Court is also being asked to clarify which supreme court justices will take part in the judicial review. It is hoped that these judges will truly be impartial and have integrity so that they can make a decision that is as just as possible.

Untenable position

Speaking separately, House of Representatives (DPR) Commission III member Yassona H Laoly said that tape recording of the conversation between Setiawan and Priyanto that referred to Manan as “one of us” makes it inappropriate for him to sit as the presiding judge in the judicial review.

“I think that is improper for Pak Bagir to be the presiding judge, bearing in mind the contents of the recording of the conversation between Polly and the [former] Garuda executive director referring to Pak Bagir as ‘one of us’”, said Laoly when speaking at the DPR in Senayan, Jakarta, on Thursday November 1.

According to Laoly, it would be better for Manan not to take part in the judicial review. “Because if he finds in favour of Polly people will say, is it true what was said by Polly that Bagir is one of us. But if he punishes Polly, people will also say it is a form of revenge because Polly smeared his reputation. So Bagir’s position is such that he will cop it either way”, explained Laoly.

The politician from the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle is asking Manan to hand the judicial review over to another person in order to safeguard the independence of the Supreme Court.

[Translated by James Balowski from two articles in on November 1.]