Indonesia — Indonesia is in need of a fresh batch of judges who can deal with environmental crimes as many “green” judges have recently been retired, a Supreme Court justice said over the weekend. “Previously, there were around 1,500 judges [capable of handling environmental cases], but some of them have retired,” Paulus Effendie Lotulung from the Supreme Court told The Jakarta Post during a workshop on environmental law in Jakarta last week.
He said the number had plunged to only about 600, about 10 percent of the country’s total judges. Throughout the years, Indonesia has witnessed thedepletion of its natural resources due to environmentally destructive practices such as illegal logging, forest fires, and untreated industrial waste being dumped into rivers.
Indonesia’s rate of deforestation exceeds 1 million hectares per year due to the illegal expansion of plantations and intentional forest fires.
Illyas Asaad, the Deputy for Environmental Compliance at the Environment Ministry, said the government is drafting a curriculum to train judges handling cases related to environmental crime.
“The curriculum will be finished this year,” he said. Illyas added the ministry is aiming to train around 30 judges on the subject this year.
Those judges would then be officially certified as being capable of addressing environmental cases. However, the number has actually slid from the 100 announced last year when the ministry and the Supreme Court signed a memorandum of understanding increase the role of the environmental law in the process of sustainable development. That year, the government also passed the new law on environmental management and protection. In contrast to its predecessor, issued in 1997, the latest version stipulates more detailed sanctions and limitations, such as those involving corporate environmental crimes.
Judges are merely one wheel in the machine, because the task of tackling the country’s environmental crimes requires a whole system equipped with persecutors, investigators, and members of the police, who are savvy on the issue, says Environment Minister Gusti Muhammad Hatta The minister, in his opening speech at the event, highlighted the importance of such a system given the lack of harmony among those from different institutions.
“Sometimes it’s hard to coordinate between the central and regional governments, and among various legal institutions,” he said. Gusti added there are currently two challenges in the effort to battle environmental crimes through legal action: Clarifying the laws to the community, and harmonizing strategies between government institutions to settle ongoing cases. Sr. Comr. Bung Djono the head of the Civil Service Investigators (PPNS) Supervisors Coordinator Division, said that in 2009 police handled four environment-related cases, down from 10 in 2008 and 23 in 2007.