The Indonesian Constitutional Court Ethics Council stripped Chief Justice Anwar Usman of his role Tuesday for ethics violations tied to his participation in a recent case that changed Indonesian law, allowing President Joko Widodo’s son to run for the vice-presidency in the upcoming elections. However, Usman will remain on the court.
In October, Usman took part in the 5-4 Constitutional Court decision that created an exception to the age requirement for the country’s presidential and vice-presidential posts. The ruling allowed candidates below the minimum age of 40 to run for office so long as they had government experience as an elected official. Gibran Rakabuming Raka, 36, is the mayor of Surakarta, the son of President Jokowi and the nephew of Justice Usman by a recent marriage.
Defense minister Probowo Subianto chose Raka as his running mate for the presidency just a week after the ruling. The ruling and Subianto’s vice-presidential choice created public backlash and a fear that the current president was attempting to create a nepotistic political dynasty as he becomes term-limited from holding office with the next election. The president has denied any judicial interference.
The court formed an ethics council in response to the public outcry over the conflicts of interest. Representatives of the community, academics and constitutional justices made up the three-person council and decided that the former chief justice had “committed a violation against the Sapta Karsa Hutama (constitutional justices’ code of ethics and conduct) principles of impartiality [and integrity].” The council also rebuked the court as a whole for “jointly allowing the practice of violating [the] code of ethics” and being negligent to conflicts of interest “due to reluctance of causing disharmony.”
In his dissent, council member Bintan R. Saragih recommended the dishonorable dismissal of Justice Anwar as a constitutional judge altogether:
My grounds for giving a dissenting opinion of ‘dishonorable dismissal’ to the reported justice as a constitutional justice, in casu Anwar Usman, is because the reported justice was proven to have committed a serious violation. The sanction for ‘serious violations’ is only ‘dishonorable dismissal’ and there are no other sanctions as stipulated in Article 41 letter c and Article 47 of the Constitutional Court Regulation No. 1 of 2023 on the Ethics Council of the Constitutional Court.
The council further found violations of the code of ethics for leaks of confidential information regarding the case by other justices on the court, saying the leaks could “erode public trust in the institutional integrity of the Court.” The decision will leave intact the October ruling on the presidential age requirement, but Usman will be barred from participating in other cases regarding election disputes that may involve other conflicts of interest. Usman is also prohibited from running for the chief justice position or being nominated until his tenure ends in 2028.