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In Memory of Munir Said Thalib…

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In conjunction with the second anniversary of murdered Indonesian human rights defender Munir Said Thalid, FORUM-ASIA joins hands in solidarity with Indonesian human rights defenders, Asian and global human rights community to honour the life and work of Munir, and many others who have sacrificed their lives in the pursuit of peace and justice.On 7 September 2004, prominent Indonesian human rights defender, Munir Said Thalib was poisoned on a Garuda Airlines flight bound to the Netherlands. Two years since the hideous murder, FORUM-ASIA joins Indonesian human rights defenders, regional and global human rights community in honoring the life and work of Munir.

During the dark years of the Suharto regime, Munir was a brave voice that gave hope to victims of human rights violations. Munir who co-founded human rights organisations, Kontras (Commission for Disappearances and Victims of Violence) and IMPARSIAL, also served as a member of the Commission on Investigation into Human Rights Violations in East Timor, a government-backed Commission. Munir had also served as the Chairperson of the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD) based in the Philippines. In 2000, Munir was awarded the prestigious Right Livelihood Award, often referred to as the Alternative Nobel Prize, “for his courage and dedication in fighting for human rights and the civilian control of the military in Indonesia."

Munir’s murder shocked the Indonesian, regional and global human rights community. There were widespread calls for independent investigations and to hold all those responsible accountable. In a much publicised judgment, on 20 December 2005, Indonesian courts found Pollycarpus Priyanto guilty of premeditated conspiracy to murder Munir and imposed a 14-year prison sentence. Importantly, the court also noted that the convicted Pollycarpus had not acted alone and urged the police to conduct further investigation in order to uncover those ultimately responsible for the death of Munir. Earlier, in June 2005, the Factfinding Team handed over its’ report to the Indonesian President who supported the initiative. Although it was neither released to the public nor used in the court proceedings, media reports indicated that its work had clearly implicated the involvement of the Indonesian National Intelligence Agency (BIN – Badan Inteligen Nasional) in the murder of Munir. Before the court judgment, Suciwati, the wife of Munir had been threatened as she campaigned for justice for her husband’s murder. Despite all these, and promises by Indonesian President Yudhoyono himself, the masterminds behind Munir’s murder have not been brought to justice.

Munir’s case is an illustration of the growing trend of impunity that prevails regarding the most serious human rights violations against human rights defenders in Asia. Such impunity, particularly in the case of serious human rights violations committed against nationally and internationally well known defenders such as Munir will only serve as a license for more violations.

Justice in Munir’s case would be a litmus test of the Indonesian government’s pledges to promote and protect human rights as a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council. FORUM-ASIA is urging the Indonesian government to ensure a conducive and safe atmosphere for all human rights defenders, including their family members, to perform their legitimate work for the promotion and protection of human rights, as enshrined in Article 12 of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and various other universally recognised international standards. This would be the best homage that could be paid to Munir, who had to make the supreme sacrifice in struggling against human rights violations and impunity.

FORUM-ASIA also expresses solidarity with Munir’s family and call on Indonesian authorities to ensure that the masterminds behind Munir’s murder are brought to justice immediately.

For further details, please contact Ruki Fernando (66-4-0991538 / [email protected]), Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) Program Coordinator