Jakarta. The Supreme Courts of Indonesia and the Netherlands on Friday (19/01) agreed to extend their judicial cooperation for another five years, which will be focused on further improving the chamber system and ensuring consistency of the case law.
"With our second memorandum of understanding, the Supreme Court and Hoge Raad [Supreme Court of the Netherlands] agreed to further strengthen the chamber systems. To ensure the development of a sustainable cooperation, we have also laid out strategic work plans," Supreme Court Chief Justice Hatta Ali said during the signing ceremony in Central Jakarta.
Partnerships between the two Supreme Courts have been ongoing for decades, involving various dialogues between members of leadership and exchange visits. The two countries' legal systems share many similarities largely due to Indonesia's status as a former Dutch colony.
Cooperation in the rule of law was formalized in 2013, when the two Supreme Courts signed their first judicial cooperation agreement.
The introduction of the chamber systems in the Indonesian Supreme Court, which began in 2012, was developed in cooperation with the court's Dutch counterpart, as well as other developments like the simultaneous reading of case files and a new format for judicial decisions.
In an exclusive interview with the Jakarta Globe, Hatta and his Dutch counterpart, Maarten Feteris, both described longstanding cooperation between the two institutions as rewarding.
"The introduction of the chamber system … benefited us greatly, providing us with more legal consistency, and sped up the settlement of cases, because now the judges are more focused on their respective expertise," Hatta told the Globe.
According to Hatta, the number of unsettled cases at the end of the year has consistently decreased since the introduction of the chamber system. The number of unsettled cases by the end of 2017 stood at 1,571 cases, compared to 2,357 cases in 2016.
Feteris said that the cooperation will be especially focused on the consistency of verdicts and the legal reasoning aspect of the new format of decisions.
"I expect we will focus more time on legal reasoning and to explain the reasons for the legal decisions and the legal principles applicable," Feteris said, adding that consistency is essential to uphold the authority of the Supreme Court in a country.
Furthermore, consistency of the case law also contributes to both equality and to legal certainty, which Feteris said is important "for the well-being of the people, and also for investors and therefore the economic potential of a country."
To achieve consistency, judges must prioritize the collective autonomy of the chambers and authority of the court as an institution.
Feteris said that current efforts at the Supreme Court of the Netherlands are also focused on ensuring consistency and improving the functions of the chamber systems.
In order to ensure effectiveness, Hatta established a working group dedicated to strengthening the chamber systems, which will be tasked to develop a standard procedure for the chambers as well as a database on verdicts or jurisprudence.
Public Confidence in the Judiciary
One of the challenges faced by the Indonesian Supreme Court, Hatta said, was how to improve public confidence in the judiciary.
Ongoing measures to improve that include the single-entry system for justice seekers, which allows citizens to file their petition or request through one channel regardless of case type.
Increasing the judges’ competence is also high on the Supreme Court’s agenda.
"We realize we must equip the judges with technical competence regularly, and we conduct regular training across all the provinces in Indonesia. Furthermore, we are also trying to increase the integrity of our judges," Hatta said.
He emphasized that the Court conducts strict surveillance to prevent Indonesian judges from making non-technical mistakes, such as violations of the code of conduct.
The Netherlands, on the other hand, enjoys high public confidence in its judiciary. However, Feteris told the Globe that his institution is constantly working to preserve that level of trust.
"In the Netherlands, public confidence in the judiciary is very high … but we should not take it for granted so we are working on it permanently," Feteris said.
This includes making sure that judgments are written as clearly as possible, closely coordinating with the media and also retaining good communication with members of the public, the legal society, and more specifically, schools and universities.
Recently, Feteris joined in on a justice and society lesson at a school in the Netherlands and interacted with students via Skype, which is an exemplary approach in bringing the institution much closer to younger generations.
While the two countries' approaches differ due to the dissimilar level of public confidence in their respective judiciaries, cooperation will continue to provide valuable insights as the courts proceed to exchange their best practices.
During his speech at the 2018 Indonesia-Netherlands Rule of Law and Security Update at Atmajaya University on Thursday, Hatta expressed optimism in the future of this cooperation.
"I believe that cooperation between Indonesia and the Netherlands will have a bright future, so is the case with our judicial cooperation, wherein concrete steps are fundamental for a mutually-beneficial cooperation," Hatta said.