TEMPO/Imam Sukamto

Sixteen Years On, How Many More Years Before Munir’s Killers Are Found?

Today marks 16 years since prominent Indonesian human rights activist, Munir Said Thalib (Munir), was murdered. Yet there has been no progress made towards conducting an independent investigation into the case. None of the main instigators behind Munir’s murder, who it is strongly believed include high-level figures, have been brought to justice for his killing through fair trials.

This failure calls into question the government’s commitment to protecting human rights defenders.

Munir’s wife, Suciwati, has long believed that there is a state-sponsored conspiracy to cover up her husband’s death. One indication is the claim that the fact-finding team’s documents have gone missing, while there has been no effort to recover them despite seven other state institutions having been in receipt of these document.

“The state is always looking for reasons to close this case down,” said Suciwati.

For this reason, Suciwati has lost faith in the current government as it has shown no commitment to resolving the case.

Munir played a significant role in uncovering evidence of human rights violations in Aceh, Papua and Timor Leste perpetrated by members of the security forces. He was also vocal in calling on the government to bring high-ranking officials to justice. In September 1999, he was appointed to the Commission of Inquiry into Human Rights Violations in East Timor.

Munir was found dead on national flag carrier Garuda Indonesia flight GA 974 from Jakarta to Amsterdam on 7 September 2004. An autopsy carried out by the Dutch authorities showed that he died as a result of arsenic poisoning. 

His death in 2004 followed a series of threats made against his life. In August 2003, a bomb exploded outside his home in Jakarta. In 2002 and 2003, the KontraS office (the Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence) where Munir worked was attacked by mobs that destroyed office equipment and took files containing information about ongoing human rights investigations.

Two people have been convicted of Munir’s murder, but there are strong allegations that those responsible for his death at the highest levels have not been brought to justice. The two individuals convicted of Munir’s murder were both employees of Garuda Indonesia. Amnesty believes that it is highly unlikely that they acted alone.

Former National Intelligence Agency (BIN) official, Muchdi Purwopranjono, was acquitted in a trial in 2008 in which all the key witnesses retracted their sworn statements or failed to appear.

Amnesty believes that Munir’s murder cannot be seen in isolation, but is indicative of the wider culture of impunity enjoyed by perpetrators of attacks and harassment of human rights defenders in Indonesia. The lack of full accountability and the political will to resolve Munir’s case contributes to an ongoing climate of fear among human rights defenders.

“With such an inhumane assassination and the alleged involvement of people at the highest levels, we call on the state to immediately recognize that the murder of Munir is a gross human rights violation,” Amnesty International Indonesia Executive Director, Usman Hamid, said.

“We call on President Joko Widodo, who has made a public pledge to resolve the case, to take decisive and concrete action. This process can be started by conducting a review of past criminal proceedings into Munir’s murder, including alleged violations of international human rights standards,” he added.

In September 2016, President Joko Widodo made a public pledge to resolve the case of Munir’s murder. But the Indonesian authorities have yet to publish the report into the investigation, in violation of Presidential Decree No. 111/2004 on the establishment of the fact-finding team on Munir’s killing, which obligates the government to make the report public.

In a controversial move, when President Joko Widodo took office he appointed AM Hendropriyono, former head of BIN, to his transition team. Hendropriyono was the head of BIN at the time of Munir’s murder and many human rights groups believe he played a role in the assassination.

“The state must take effective steps to ensure that human rights violations committed against all human rights defenders are promptly, effectively and impartially investigated and that those responsible are brought to justice in fair trials,” Usman said.

Meanwhile, Munir’s wife Suciawati plans to raise the case at international level. Suciwati hopes that if the state continues to ignore the case, the international community can intervene.

Suciwati also hopes that BIN will be more transparent and that it can be made more accountable. “I’m looking for an opportunity to find out what happened at BIN in 2004. We must always be smart in looking for opportunities to solve this case,” Suciwati said.

Jakarta, 7 September 2020

Komite Aksi Solidaritas untuk Munir (KASUM)

Committee of Action and Solidarity for Munir ()

Amnesty International Indonesia (AII)

Asia Justice and Rights (AJAR)

Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence – KontraS

Human Rights Watch 

Imparsial 

Indonesian Legal Aid Institution (YLBHI)

Legal Aid Institute – LBH Jakarta

Lokataru Foundation 

Omah Munir

Serikat Pengajar HAM (SEPAHAM)

Yayasan Perlindungan Insani (Protection International)