Traditional Land Rights before the Indonesian Constitutional Court


Simon Butt
Associate Professor,
Faculty of Law,
University of Sydney



In early 2013, the Indonesian Constitutional Court handed down its decision in the Traditional Forest Community case. In what has been heralded as a landmark decision, the Court upheld, as constitutional rights, the traditional rights of indigenous communities over forest resources upon which they had long depended. After introducing the Court and discussing aspects of its decision-making in constitutional review cases, this article demonstrates that the Traditional Forest Community case is in fact only the latest in a line of cases in which the Court has upheld traditional rights in the face of legislation that purport to allow the state to override them. In these cases, Court has provided important constitutional recognition to these traditional rights. However, its decisions do not appear to have cleared significant administrative stumbling blocks that remain in the way of communities seeking to enjoy the traditional rights to which they are now constitutionally entitled.


Constitutional court, customary law, forestry, indigenous rights, Indonesia, law, traditional communities.             LEAD Journal - ISSN 1746-5893