Indonesian Sandal Case Fuels Juvenile Court Push
Ezra Sihite & Ulma Haryanto
The House of Representatives is pushing for the passage of Juvenile Court legislation after controversy created by the case of the sandal-stealing teenager.
Aboe Bakar Al Habsyi, a lawmaker from the House Commission III, which oversees legal issues, said the Juvenile Court bill would prevent children from being “jailed.”
“Children with legal problems should not be thrown in jail, but instead they should be put into a correction house, like a boarding school or special dorm,” he said.
In pushing for the legislation, Aboe Bakar cited the recent case of A.A.L., a 17-year-old boy from Palu, Central Sulawesi, accused of stealing a pair of sandals worth Rp 30,000 ($3.30) from a police officer. His parents alleged the police forced a confession from the boy by beating him before his case was sent to trial.
Even though the court found him guilty, A.A.L. was returned to his parents, and the police officer who accused him was sentenced to 21 days in detention, given a one-year delay on any prospect of promotion as well as a warning.
The essence of the bill, Aboe Bakar said, is restorative justice.
“So that the punishment for children does not simply provide a deterrent effect, but also an educational one,” he said.
The bill is still under discussion by Commission III and the Ministry of Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection.
But Maria Ulfa Anshor, the chairwoman of the Indonesian Commission for Child Protection (KPAI), said that to achieve a judicial system that prioritizes child’s protection, both the lawmakers and the government officials have to change their paradigms.
A restorative justice approach, she said, would prioritize mediation and rehabilitation over imprisonment.
“If possible, the KPAI suggests that children’s prisons be banished. Even though children may commit crimes, they are actually the victims themselves,” she said.
The bill, she said, can avoid cases like the sandal theft, or worse, deaths caused by police abuse or adult inmates.
“With delinquents, there is no trial necessary. Police have to be able to mediate, involving the parents so they take responsibility,” Maria said. “You also have to see the reason behind the crime: is it the family, environment, or education? A kid will not spontaneously commit a crime. There has to be a cumulative process that leads him to do it.”
KPAI estimates that more than 7,000 children could be behind bars nationwide and at least 200 of them are in adult prisons.
Indonesia does not have a justice system specifically designed to deal with young delinquents. Law enforcers often take a punitive approach.
If found guilty, juveniles are to be placed in special correctional facilities for children, the law states. A lack of space at these facilities means that often does not occur, and juveniles under police investigation are detained with adult suspects.
The bill would replace the 1997 Juvenile Offenders Law and usher in a new set of regulations compliant with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
In 2010, the president called for reforms in the treatment of juvenile delinquents.