Urge Supreme Court to order Meulaboh to Punish Company Responsible for Environmental Crime
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Remember the much publicised legal case against rogue palm oil company PT Kallista Alam? For burning peatland forests in the Tripa peat swamps in the Leuser Ecosystem? The company convicted by Indonesia’s Supreme Court and ordered to pay fines totalling USD 26 million?
Well, three years after the Supreme Court announced its FINAL ruling on the case, PT. Kallista Alam (PT. KA) has still not paid any fines, and instead actually asked for 'legal protection' from the Meulaboh District Court. And now it has even sued Indonesia’s Ministry of Environment and Forestry (MoEF), under the pretext of an error in objecto over coordinates presented by the Ministry in the original case against them, claiming that a minute typo in the coordinates renders their own original court verdict unimplementable.
To make matters worse, in a bizarre legal situation the Meulaboh District Court's chief judge recently actually granted ‘legal protection’ to PT Kallista Alam, and accepted their lawsuit against MoEF, on 12th April 2018.
Despite the overwhelming evidence against them, and the Meulaboh District Court’s own original court case decision against them, appeals against which failed at the High court in Banda Aceh and again at the Supreme Court in Jakarta, in their new shocking announcement the Meulaboh District Court declared that Supreme Court decision no.651/K/Pdt/2015 cannot be executed against PT. KA and PT KA cannot be held legally accountable for burning forest.
This decision by the Meulaboh District Court's chief judge, Said Hasan, which in the legal hierarchy is well below the Supreme Court, raises so many questions of Judge Hasan’s integrity and accountability. How could the Supreme Court decision be annulled by a lower court?
With their most recent decision, the Meulaboh District Court is trying to release PT KA from all its legal obligations to pay the fines and ensure the affected peat swamps forests are fully restored to their former condition. Even though the slight typo in coordinates could easily be ruled irrelevant, since the Meulaboh District Court itself investigated the situation in the field during the original case.
In its decision, Meulaboh District Court also released PT KA from all the responsibilities to pay fine or restore the forest they burn . Even though the slight errors in coordinates could be ruled as irrelevant as Meulaboh District Court conducted a field trial on the location of the forest fires.
Legally, this case reached its final verdict with the Supreme Court in Jakarta, and PT KA should not be able to file any new lawsuit with regards to this particular case. It should also not be able to question the coordinates presented in the original case, since the situation in the field was repeatedly examined by the Meulaboh District Court themselves, by the High Court in Banda Aceh and by Indonesia’s Supreme Court, the highest in the land.
Furthermore, in an article published on 7 May 2018 Foresthints.news state that the MoEF has found new legal violations by PT KA in Tripa, consisting of new palm oil plantation development and canal construction in peat protection zones, contravening Indonesia’s new peat regulations (http://www.foresthints.news/violations-by-companies-in-tripa-peat-swamps-exposed
An additional unpublished report by a local NGO also found evidence of 193 fire hotspots and 60 ha of forest loss inside concessions owned by PT KA between 2013 and 2017 (inclusive), suggesting that even while they were being prosecuted the company continued to show little regard for National Law.
It is outrageous that while the legal process is still underway, forest burning and exploitation continue to be carried out. If the final decision of the Supreme Court can be easily annulled by a district court, what about the legal system's future in Indonesia ? If we allow this kind of case to happen, other companies will not be afraid of breaking environmental rules because legal consequences can be easily mocked. If PT KA's execution fails to be enforced, it will create a bad precedent for Indonesian environmental law.
If the final decision of the Supreme Court can so easily be annulled by a regional District Court, what does it say about Indonesia’s legal system, and what kind of precedent does it set for the future? And why should other companies be concerned about being prosecuted if the system can so easily be mocked. If the execution of the sentences against PT KA fails to be enforced, it will create an extremely worrying precedent for Indonesian environmental law.
In 2014, PT Kallista Alam was found guilty of deliberately burning 1,000 hectares of peatland forests in the Tripa peat swamps, part of the Leuser Ecosystem in Aceh, an area listed as a National Strategic Area for its environmental function by Central Government under National Spatial Planning law.
Before its destruction by palm oil companies, Tripa was regarded by some as “The Orangutan Capital in the World”, with over 60,000 ha of primary peat swamp forests that were home to around 3000 or more Critically Endangered Sumatran Orangutans. Today only around 100 to 150 orangutans remain, most of those lost having died gradually over the years of starvation and malnutrition, or having been deliberately killed due to conflict with farmers and plantation companies, with some surviving infants ending up in the illegal pet trade.
As a peat swamp forest, Tripa also stores millions of tons of carbon in its forests and peat layers, huge quantities of which continue to be released to the atmosphere as CO2, due to ongoing burning and drainage, fuelling global climate change.
For the sake of justice, we URGE the Supreme Court of the Republic of Indonesia to immediately annul Meulaboh District Court decision No. 16 / Pdt.G / 2017 / PN.Mbo approving PT. KA’s lawsuit against the Ministry, and order the Court to immediately execute Supreme Court Verdict No. 1 PK / PDT / 2017 jo. Verdict no. 651 K / Pdt / 2015 jo decision no. 50 / PDT / 2014 / PT Bna jo. Verdict no. 12 / PDT.G / 2012 / PN.Mbo - and make the company pay their fines for environmental damages of IDR 366 billion (USD 26 million).
By adding your voice to this petition you are contributing to the restoration of the Tripa peat swamps, and assisting Indonesia’s Government implement justice, thereby maintaining the reputation of Indonesia’s legal system, for the benefit of future generations.
For justice and a healthy environment for all!
Gerakan Rakyat Aceh Menggugat
(Aceh Citizen Lawsuit Movement)
Photo by Paul Hilton shows the fire that devoured the Tripa Swamp forest in Nagan Raya, Aceh.
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