Is the Indonesian Constitutional Court corrupt?

Is the Indonesian Constitutional Court corrupt?

This blog reflects on the arrest of Indonesia’s Chief Justice of the Constitutional Court for corruption and how the country deals with corruption issues in its government.

Last week on October 2, Akil Mochtar, Indonesia’s Chief Justice of the Constitutional Court was charged with corruption by the country’s special Corruption Eradication Commission (“KPK”).

The Constitutional Court in Indonesia has jurisdiction to review Indonesian laws enacted by parliament, dissolve political parties, resolve disputes between government institutions and resolve disputes concerning the results of public elections. In addition, the Constitutional Court has the jurisdiction to decide, at the request of the House of Representatives, on the dismissal of the President and/or Vice President.

The arrest of Akil Mochtar (the Chief Justice of Constitutional Court) came as a shock to the Indonesian people and the media. Like any other corruption allegations, they both immediately condemned him, issuing news reports about how he hit a journalist on his way out of the KPK building after being interrogated, how drugs were allegedly found in his office, and how he made a statement in 2012 that corruptors should be punished by cutting off their fingers.


The picture above was released by Jakarta Globe, an English language newspaper in Indonesia, depicting the finger-cutting punishment for Akil. Few people seem to think that he might not be guilty. The only positive news about his alleged corruption, is that “if he is not guilty, his reputation will be restored”, said Vice Chief Justice of the Court.

Although his wealth raises questions, Akil insists that he is not guilty. His version of the story is that two people came to his house, and were waiting for him in front of his house. When he went to see who the guests were, the KPK investigators were there along with these two guests. The investigators started searching the guests and found that they carried an exorbitant amount of money with them. However, no exchange had been made.

A couple of weeks before, an alleged corruptor was released following a ruling by the Supreme Court, and the general public claimed that this decision involved corruption. Numerous lawyers, judges, businessmen and politicians have been charged with corruption, even the Corruption Court judges are charged with corruption. Corruption is a very sensitive and intricate term in Indonesia. And as a result it has become very popular for statesmen to campaign on being “clean”

Indonesian people hate corruption and praise the KPK each time it makes an arrest, believing it to be another example of the institution’s success. Nowadays, corruption allegations almost automatically lead to persecution and the crime is treated much worse than any other. On top of that, once the allegation has been made, the alleged corruptor will have already been judged by the public. Instead of being innocent until proven guilty, it is the accused’s task to prove his innocence. The accused will be bombarded with any possible negativity the media can find. This is dangerous, because in this way, any allegation can result in a witch hunt. The KPK could point to anyone, and in the end it is someone’s life, image and/or career that is at stake.

One has to wonder how the KPK makes its decisions on who to investigate and which investigation result in being carried on for prosecution. It should also be noted that part of the KPK investigators came from the Indonesian National Police which, according to many, is one of the most corrupt government bodies in Indonesia, as confirmed by the 2013 Global Corruption Index from Transparency International.

This brings me to reflect on a statement by the late Prof. Achmad Ali of Universitas Hasanuddin who said that Indonesians like everything that is “clean” (free from corruption), without realising that their broom is dirty. I am not saying that the KPK is dirty. I sincerely hope that it is not, but I hope that the Indonesian people keep treading with caution, as the KPK has increasing power to influence the political arena in Indonesia by deciding who it will charge with corruption.

We will have to wait and see whether or not the Chief Justice is corrupt and what will be the consequences of this for the Constitutional Court. But in the meantime, I hope that the Indonesian people do not forget the importance of due process and value our Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that “[e]veryone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty […]”.


Simon Oliver





Thank you for your spot-on suggestion, Prof. Otto.
Although the medias are usually vague about the details and procedures of the arrest, it will indeed be interesting to ask questions such as whether receiving guests that are carrying money illegal? Was the investigation conducted with sufficient preliminary evidence? What kind of social status and income threshold are expected from a public official? Is there relation to their wealth and their work?
Which work?

In Indonesia a lot of people have more than one job/business, so hypothetically, if Akil's wealth came from his personal business, not as a judge, is he allowed to be rich?
The result of this investigation will be highly speculative (and no doubt will be politicized), since Indonesia's banking system is not as integrated as in the Netherlands or the US for instance. Even though he is allowed to have more wealth than his peers, it will be difficult to separate the source of income.

But yes, it will be interesting to ask questions related to legal procedures and what kinds of behaviors are required to be had by a public official (judge) and I hope there will be more research about this.

Jan Otto

Thanks for your insightful article, Santy, and I shate your concern. From an analytical viewpoint, it is perhaps most fruitful to ask whether certain behaviour of a given person is corrupt (violating public duty for private gain) rather than whether an Institution or a person as such is corrupt.


I do agree with most of the content on the article. KPK take greater role day by day which can be very dangerous if any possible missfunction happened. KPK is commision or extra auxiliary body which is built to eradicate corruption. It has been very powerful, even the highest institution of state like Constitutional Court can be ruined cos of the case of bribery found by KPK.. Well, power tend to corrupt but i hope KPK wouldn't. Because people here put trust on KPK, praised it like trustworthy lord.

Indra Darmawan

An in-depth analysis, Santy. As one of Indonesians people, I would like to say that there is no trust deficit yet in today's KPK. We more believe in KPK other than Police Department of Indonesia which is the functions remain same. As a result, the right of using to presume innocent to the suspect we more and more take a lot of trust on KPK, not police.