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In Memory of Asep Rahmat Fajar, a Indonesian Legal Reform Thinker*

9 Jan 2017 14:33 | Dio Ashar Wicaksana

It was shocking news to hear that one of our Oñati family members Asep Rahmat Fajar passed away a few days ago (4th January 2017). He graduated from Oñati International Institute for the Sociology of Law (IISL) in 2010. In Indonesia, Asep is a well-known activist in legal reform. He began his career as activist in 2000, before joining the Indonesian government to ensure legal reform developed inside the bureaucracy. Therefore, this article is a last tribute to his accomplishments as an activist and scholar.

His Contribution to Indonesian Legal Reform

Prior to his term in MaPPI FHUI, Asep Rahmat Fajar was an active and vocal law students in echoing reform particularly in legal and judicial reform area. Like others, he joined massive students demonstrations during 1998 to change the authoritarian government led by Suharto. In 1999, his final year in law school University of Indonesia (UI), he and other students started an organization named MaPPI (Indonesian Judicial Monitoring Society). Asep led MaPPI FHUI until 2006 and leave the organization to his junior so they can continue the torch of the organization.  During his leadership, MaPPI actively contributed to develop blueprints for judicial reform in the Indonesian Supreme Court and Indonesian Attorney General Office (AGO). Later, these blueprints was amended by Supreme Court and AGO for longer term of implementation.

In addition to that, as the center of the mission, MaPPI-FHUI also conducted judicial process monitoring for review and evaluation. MaPPI then developed reports and discussed the result and recommendation to relevant leader within the judiciary. When he was in MaPPI, Asep was also led and became the spokepersons of the CSOs coalition focused on court monitoring, namely Court Monitoring Coalition (KPP). The Coalition was successfully push and advocate many reform agenda to relevant institutions and become the critical partners to the Judicial Commission (KY) and Anti Corruption Commission (KPK). The monitoring method then was not only used by the CSOs, but it was also used by the Indonesian Judicial Commission (KY) to monitor judges across Indonesia which become a basis for them to develop recommendations to the Supreme Court.

Asep was successfully built his network, thus it was no surprise when he was requested to join the Judicial Commission as an expert and later on as the KY spokesperson. The relationship between KY and the Supreme Court (MA) is not always smooth and good, more often they had heated debate and disagreement resulted in ignorance of MA to KY’s recommendation. Many experts told the media, that it was when Asep as the spokesperson that the relationship between MA and KY started to be more productive. Some of the outputs during his term as spokespersons were the joint letter between KY and MA on the Code of Conduct for judges and also the improvement of judges’ salary. Asep was not only built official relations with MA’s leader and KY’s commissioner but also successfully built personal closeness to the end that they value and respect his work and advice.

He left KY so he can focus to continue his education on PhD Program in Tilburg University. However, as predicted, he cannot stand not to participate actively in the reform process for too long, especially when the new era brought by President Jokowi gave so much hope to many reformers. He was joined the Indonesian Presidency Staff Office (KSP) responsible on legal and security issues. This is a tough job with many coordination with lost of stakeholders not only in national but also regional level. But, building network and listen to others were always his best traits, thus only in a short time Asep was trusted with bigger task as the Secretary of Working Group on The President Legal Reform Package. It was an important and tough job because the challenge was not only to develop the package that should be practical and result oriented but also on how to build ownership within the institutions itself so they can carry forward the package within their longer planning and implementation.

Asep believed formalistic legal norms were not always the best solution for legal problems. He argued that law was the result of many factors and perspectives. Therefore, law is the process to equalise and balance justice between nation and society. He strongly believed that civil society had a fundamental influence towards Indonesian judicial legal reform.

Based on this perspectives, he decided to continue to study at Oñati International Institute for the Sociology of Law (IISL) in 2009/2010. He wrote his thesis on “The Institutionalization of Public Participation in the Selection of Supreme Court Justices by Judicial Commission of the Republic of Indonesia”. His thesis emphasized on the importance of civil society to influence the quality of Supreme Court Judges.

His contribution was not only to the Indonesian judicial institutions, but he was also a big inspiration to Indonesian activists. Therefore, many Indonesian people are sad in the loss of his presence.

To end this article, I would like to extend my deepest condolences for him and his family.  Farewell Asep Rahmat fajar, Indonesia and Oñati community definitely will miss you, you will always be in our hearts and minds.

*This article also contributed by Nisa Istiani (the former researcher of MaPPI-FHUI)

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