[Joint Statement] Indonesia: Government must declare Munir’s case as a grave violation of human rights
7 September 2023 11:14 am
The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)–alongside its member organisations–calls on the Government of Indonesia to provide clarity regarding Munir Said Thalib’s case and declare it as a grave violation of human rights.
On 7 September 2004–on Garuda’s Jakarta-Amsterdam flight–Munir Said Thalib was killed by arsenic poisoning. Munir was a prominent Indonesian human rights campaigner who took up the cause of dozens of activists subjected to enforced disappearances during the last months of Suharto’s regime in 1998. He played a significant role in uncovering evidence of the security forces’ role in human rights violations in Aceh, Papua, and Timor-Leste.
19 years later, the case is yet to reach clarity and the real perpetrator-mastermind behind the killing has not been legally prosecuted.
While the date of Munir’s murder has since been commemorated in Indonesia as ‘Human Rights Defender Protection Day,’ attempts to expose and bring the real perpetrator to justice are yet to come into fruition. We echo the call made by the Committee of Solidarity Action for Munir in Indonesia (Komite Aksi Solidaritas untuk Munir, KASUM) to urge the Government of Indonesia to immediately resolve this case.
The circumstances surrounding Munir’s death still leave a big question mark.
The formation of a Fact-Finding Team on Munir’s Death (Tim Pencari Fakta Kasus Meninggalnya Munir, TPF) in 2004 through Presidential Decree 111/2004 by the administration of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was an important step in uncovering Munir’s case. Unfortunately, the results of the TPF have never been officially shared with the public despite the decree’s directive number nine, which specifically mandated such action.
There were several names other than Pollycarpus who were tried in the report. However, regimes from the SBY up to Joko Widodo era seemed reluctant in publicising the result of the TPF. This left unanswered questions as to why such names were never prosecuted in a court of law nearly two decades after Munir’s murder.
Local groups believe that Munir’s case is not an ordinary stand-alone crime. It is strongly suspected that Munir’s murder was carried out systematically as it involved state actors such as the State Intelligence Agency and Garuda Indonesia.
On 7 September 2020, KASUM submitted a legal opinion on the circumstances of Munir’s murder as a gross human rights violation to the Indonesian National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM). Within that document, we emphasised that Munir’s case fulfils the elements of crimes against humanity, which fall under the category of gross human rights violations as stipulated in Article 9 of Law Number 26 of 2000 concerning Human Rights Courts.
Call for Action
The lack of meaningful steps taken by the State in investigating Munir’s murder not only clouds efforts to seek truth, justice, and legal certainty but also creates the potential for repetition.
We believe that Munir’s case should not be seen in isolation. It is indicative of the wider culture of impunity surrounding the attacks and harassment against human rights defenders in the country. The lack of full accountability in Munir’s case contributes to an ongoing climate of fear among human rights defenders. If the State does not immediately take concrete action, the future work and safety of human rights defenders in Indonesia would be put at great risk.
As such, we support the recommendations made by KASUM:
First, the President of the Republic of Indonesia should immediately disclose the TPF report documents to the public as mandated in directive number nine of Presidential Decree 111/2004 concerning the formation of TPF for Munir’s case as a form of accountability and transparency in the disclosure of Munir’s case.
Second, Komnas HAM should set Munir’s murder as a gross human rights violation and should publicly provide clear and transparent information on the handling of Munir’s murder case.
Third, the international community should put scrutiny on the Government of Indonesia–as the current Chair of ASEAN and ahead of its candidacy for becoming UN Human Rights Council member 2024–to respect the rights of victims and to provide effective remedy for all grave violations of human rights perpetrated by both the State and non-state actors in the country.
‘As the people of ASEAN in the recent 2023 ASEAN Civil Society Conference/ASEAN Peoples’ Forum (ACSC/APF) have urged ASEAN leaders in the ongoing ASEAN Summit to address grave violations of human rights and to provide effective remedies to victims, the resolution of Munir’s case is a test to Indonesia–as the current chair of ASEAN–to step up and serve as a model in the combat against impunity,’ said Mary Aileen Diez-Bacalso, Executive Director of FORUM-ASIA.
 Read the attached original statement from KASUM
- Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
- Association of Women for Awareness & Motivation (AWAM)
- BALAOD Mindanaw
- Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM)
- Bir Duino
- Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC)
- Civil Society And Human Rights Network (CSHRN
- Defence of Human Rights (DHR)
- Indonesia Legal Aid Foundation – Yayasan Lembaga Bantuan Hukum Indonesia (YLBHI)
- Indonesian Legal Aid and Human Rights Association (PBHI)
- International Legal Initiative Public Foundation (ILI Foundation)
- Jagriti Child and Youth Concern Nepal (JCYCN)
- Judicial System Monitoring Program (JSMP)
- Karapatan Alliance Philippines (KARAPATAN)
- Karnali Integrated Rural Development and Research Centre (KIRDARC)
- Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law (KIBHR)
- Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence – Komisi untuk Orang Hilang dan Korban Tindak Kekerasan (KontraS)
- Madaripur Legal Aid Association (MLAA)
- Maldivian Democracy Network (MDN)
- People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy (PSPD)
- People’s Watch (PW)
- Pusat KOMAS
- Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit (RMMRU)
- Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP)
- The Indonesian Human Rights Monitor – Inisiatif Masyarakat Partisipatif untuk Transisi Berkeadilan (Imparsial)
- Women’s Rehabilitation Centre (WOREC)
The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) is a network of 85 member organisations across 23 countries, mainly in Asia. Founded in 1991, FORUM-ASIA works to strengthen movements for human rights and sustainable development through research, advocacy, capacity development and solidarity actions in Asia and beyond. It has consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council, and consultative relationship with the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights. The FORUM-ASIA Secretariat is based in Bangkok, with offices in Jakarta, Geneva and Kathmandu. www.forum-asia.org
For media inquiries, please contact:
- Communication and Media Programme, FORUM-ASIA, [email protected]
For the PDF version of this statement, click here