Indonesian Catholic students win challenge to criticism law

Presidential consent will still be needed to summons legislators in criminal investigations
Indonesian Catholic students win challenge to criticism law

Lawmakers attend a parliamentary session at the parliament in Jakarta in this June 28, 2016 file photo. (Photo by Adek Berry/AFP)

Catholic students and other opponents of a law criminalizing criticism of Indonesian legislators have had a substantial win in the nation's Constitutional Court.

On June 28, the court scrapped a number of controversial articles in the Legislative Institutions Law in relation to immunity for lawmakers from criminal investigations as well as protection from critics.

The nine-judge panel abolished Article 122 of the law, which said that parliament's ethics council could take legal action against those who "disrespect the dignity" of lawmakers or parliament as an institution.

The controversial law, which came into effect in March, sparked widespread public outrage and even opposition from President Joko Widodo.

Catholic students, along with other groups, mounted the court challenge against provisions they branded undemocratic.

Kosmas Mus Guntur, from the Association of Indonesian Catholic Students, said the Constitutional Court decision wisely re-established legislators and parliament as representatives of the people.

It was a victory against those parliamentarians who believed they should be "untouchable" like God.

Lucius Karus, a Catholic researcher at Parliament Watch, said the decision constituted a warning to parliamentarians not create laws serving their own interests.

And it showed the importance of judicial checks on arbitrary law-making, Karus added.

Lawmakers needed to safeguard the honor of parliament through their own performances.

"Criticism is not the same as a curse or verbal abuse that demeans them," Karus said.

House Speaker Bambang Soesatyo accepted the court rulings.

The Constitutional Court, while striking down the most controversial provisions, maintained a requirement that law enforcement authorities obtain presidential consent to summons lawmakers in criminal investigations.

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