An absolute highlight of my AIYEP journey has been my work placement in Makassar at LBH, a legal aid organisation. As a law student with an interest in social justice and Indonesian society, I have found my internship at LBH to be informative and very inspiring. The lawyers at LBH defend the rights of vulnerable individuals in Indonesia for no cost, by providing them legal representation when their liberties are threatened. When you look at the types of people and cases LBH defends, it is clear this work is fundamental for ensuring a fair judicial process, crucial to Indonesia's status as a functioning democracy. LBH represents the poor, the LGBTI community, those who have been exploited at work, and women and children who are in vulnerable situations.
We sat in on a trial for a woman who was accused of criminal defamation, for merely posting a Facebook status speaking out against the behaviour of an unnamed official. The differences between the Australian and Indonesian justice system were stark, with the judges, prosecution and defence all vigorously questioning the defendant who wore a red vest in court to signify she was on trial. The fact this case was happening was disheartening, showing the imbalance of power which can occur between poorer communities and those in positions of authority.
Having access to legal aid is something that Australians take for granted, yet it is essential to a working and fair justice system. If less privileged individuals cannot access legal representation, especially when they belong to a minority group whose rights are threatened, the justice system becomes inequitable, available only to those who can afford it or are favoured by policy. Legal aid organisations like LBH, who defend the rights of minority groups for free, are vital for a justice system that works effectively for all.
The survival and growth of LBH is so important for a just and fair judiciary in Indonesia. Unfortunately, we were informed of LBH's financial difficulties, as up until now they were largely funded by Australian aid. The lawyers there are currently working full time as volunteers. If anyone would like to donate to this valuable organisation, please follow the link below. They greatly need donations to ensure their survival and to continue providing free legal representation to the most vulnerable and disenfranchised of Indonesian society.