Melbourne Law School - Theses

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    The use and misuse of foreign materials by the Indonesian Constitutional Court: a study of constitutional court decisions 2003-2008
    Zhang, Diane ( 2010)
    This thesis examines the Indonesian Constitutional Court's (MK) use of foreign and international sources of law in constitutional adjudication. Specifically, I seek to address three questions, each of which represent the main criticisms of the practice. First, is the MK's use of foreign materials in constitutional adjudication legitimate? Or is it undemocratic and an excessive exercise of the Court's judicial authority? Second, does the MK demonstrate a sufficient level of understanding of the contextual background from which the transnational principle derives, needed to evaluate whether the transplanted principle is suitable to the Indonesian context? Third, does the MK selectively use foreign materials only when the adopted principle supports an already identified position and ignores the sources that oppose the outcome sought by the Court? On the first question, the MK derives legitimacy from its adoption of a `universalist' interpretive theory. Under this approach, all courts are assumed to be identifying and interpreting the same set of constitutional norms thus providing the theoretical basis to use foreign materials to interpret those norms. However, the adoption of principles from transnational sources of law by the MK are generally not accompanied with clear reasons that justify why the principles it selects are relevant to the Indonesian context and why those it ignores are irrelevant. As a result, the Court does not demonstrate whether it has sufficient knowledge of the context from which the transplanted law derives. A lack of contextual knowledge gives rise to the risk that the court applying the laws may do so inappropriately or even incorrectly. The lack of transparency on the manner in which the foreign materials are selected; and quantitative evidence showing that the overwhelming majority of citations, in fact, did support the MK's decisions; exposes the Court to the third criticism, that it `cheery picks' foreign materials only when a supporting principle can be found to lend legitimacy to a preferred policy position or result.