Jakarta. Indonesia's juvenile justice system is already progressive, and so must become the mindsets of law enforcers for the system to be in the best interest of children, experts said on Friday (26/01).
In 2012, the House of Representatives passed a law on the juvenile justice system (SPPA), which prioritizes diversion, increases the age of criminal responsibility from eight to 12 years, and encourages the use of restorative justice practices. The law was enacted in 2014.
"The 2012 Juvenile Law is extremely progressive [and it] has been showcased in the region as a very good practice, because it promotes diversion. It says that children should not be in prison, except in exceptional circumstances," Lauren Rumble, deputy representative of Unicef Indonesia, said during a conference in Jakarta organized by the Youth Network on Violence against Children (YNVAC).
However, many Indonesians are still unaware of the legislation and the importance of providing children with special protections, Lauren added.
Erasmus Napitupulu, managing director of the Institute for Criminal Justice Reform (ICJR), said that many children are led to crime by poverty, and this must be taken into consideration in juvenile justice.
"Every individual has a reason to commit their crimes, and [sometimes] there's a poverty aspect to it. The most important thing is to understand that offenders are not always malicious, but are lost and must be guided, especially children," he said.
If police fail to follow through with a case, which is a recurring problem, citizens should complain to a higher instance or to the National Police Commission (Kompolnas), said Andi Lolo of the Public Prosecution Commission.
"It's important not to let these things be, as cases must always be followed through. Because when you ignore them it actually encourages perpetrators of a crime to carry on, as they are not subject to the consequences of their actions," Andi said.
Concerns regarding the implementation of the 2012 Law are related to a punitive approach, which is still pursued by law enforcers despite the law's emphasis on restorative justice.
"The best interest of the child must always be championed, all throughout investigation, prosecution and trial," said Ali Khasan, assistant deputy of child protection at the Ministry of Women's Empowerment and Child Protection.
Unicef Indonesia's child protection specialist Ali Aulia Ramly also said the government needs to pay more attention to the importance of preventive measures to decrease juvenile crime in the country.
"International standards place an emphasis on the importance of preventive measures, not only to prevent children from being taken by the police, but also prevent them from committing crimes in the first place," Ali said, adding that the younger generation must also be made aware of how crime and violence work, and how they can be prevented to stop the cycle.
As many Indonesian children in conflict with the law have no access to legal advisers, YNVAC and Unicef called on young Indonesians to raise awareness among their peers and to join together in public advocacy for a child-sensitive approach to juvenile offenders.
A social media campaign will unfold under the tagline #SudahSaatnyaOrangMudaBersuara, which translates as "it's high time for the youth to speak up."