Constitutional Court Judge convicted of two ethical violations

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(photo: IO/Yoga)

IO, Jakarta – The entirety of the 2019 Elections electoral dispute hearing at the Constitutional Court on 14-22 June was watched closely by the public. Naturally, this attention included attention focused on Constitutional Court Judge Arief Hidayat. He argued heatedly with the Petitioner legal counsel, Bambang Widjojanto (“BW”), for the lawyer’s defense of a witness from Presidential Candidate 02’s team, named Idham. Judge Arief Hidayat constantly pressured the witness, and even called him “kampungan” (“hick”). In fact, BW was nearly thrown out of the court room by Judge Arief for having defended this witness. Naturally, it went viral on social media. “If you really are a man from the country, you should know about the situation in this country and talked about that, instead of the national situation,” Arief said in the hearing held at the Constitutional Court Building, Jalan Medan Merdeka Barat, Central Jakarta, on Thursday (19/06/2019). Bambang interrupted and defended Idham. According to him, even though Idham is from the countryside, he has the right to be given national-level information.

Since the statement, the public went abuzz with Arief Hidayat’s name. Who is this Constitutional Court judge now being exposed in a spotlight?

Arief was the Dean of Diponegoro University’s Faculty of Law who gathered the courage to apply as Constitutional Judge through the House of Representative (Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat – “DPR”) route. He was appointed as Constitutional Judge by then-president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on 1 April 2013 at the Presidential Palace. A year later, Arief was unanimously elected as the Chairman of the Constitutional Court for the 2014-2017 period to replace Hamdan Zoelva. Arief was originally elected to continue as Chairman of the Constitutional Court after his tenure had ended, but the DPR decided to maintain him as a Constitutional Judge instead in 2018.

Arief Hidayat is a controversial figure. He was requested to step down by 300 legal academicians, such as former Minister of Law and Human Rights Denny Indrayana, former Chairman of Judicial Commission Yudisial Suparman Marzuki, and former Corruption Eradication Commission (Komisi Pemberantasan Korupsi – “KPK”) Chairman Busyro Mukodas at the Gadjah Mada University Arena.  A similar request was made by the Save the Constitutional Court Community Coalition, which demanded Arief Hidayat’s resignation from his post as Constitutional Court Chairman. “Only by resigning from his post can Arief Hidayat contribute to future betterment of the Constitutional Court,” said Save the Constitutional Court Community Coalition Coordinator Wahidah Suaib in a press conference held at the Indonesian Corruption Watch (“ICW”) Secretariat in Kalibata, South Jakarta.

Wahidah believes that Arief’s behavior does not reflect good statesmanship nor the principle of integrity, which a Constitutional Court should possess and respect. Save the Constitutional Court Community Coalition recorded that on 16 January 2018, the Constitutional Court’s Ethics Council gave a verbal warning to Arief, as he was proven to have privately met with politicians and members of the DPR RI in November 2017. It is suspected that the meeting was related to the election of a Constitutional Judge from DPR RI representation and the election of the Constitutional Court Chairman.

Wahidah notes that this was not Arief’s first sanction. Earlier, the Constitutional Court’s Ethical Council also punished Arief for suspicion of ethical violation in the form of sending a memorandum of order to the Junior Criminal High Judge of the High Court to nominate one of his (Arief’s) own relatives as a State Attorney. Arief has also been reported alongside three other Constitutional Judges for suspicion of ethical violation by failing to submit State an Administrator Wealth and Asset Report (Laporan Harta Kekayaan Penyelenggara Negara – “LHKPN”) to the KPK.

Constitutional Court Spokesman Fajar Laksono stated that the fact that Arief Hidayat has faced a public demand for resignation for a serious violation of the Code of Ethics twice was never discussed by other judges, even though he claimed that the Constitutional Court respects public dislike of Arief, Fajar stated that judges have their own standards that may differ from those of the public. “We (nine judges) have not discussed such public demands, because each of us has different value standards,” Fajar said.

Fajar stated that there is nothing wrong if Arief chose to maintain his position when the Ethical Council punished him for minor violations. After all, Arief has satisfied all requirements for ethical review and he has been warned for his violations. (dan)