Hasyim Widhiarto, Jakarta – Following the public outcry over the recent release of Pollycarpus Budihari Priyanto, the convicted murderer of prominent rights campaigner Munir Said Thalib, the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) has set up its own legal team to assess whether the assassination can be classified as crime against humanity.
The team, which comprises Komnas HAM commissioner Roichatul Aswidah, Solidarity Action Committee for Munir (KASUM) chairman Choirul Anam, lawyer Lamria Siagian and a member of the now-defunct fact-finding team for the Munir case, Hendardi, was established on Dec. 12 and will work for up to three months to assess the case by, among other things, reviewing court documents and collecting information from witnesses and other relevant sources.
"Should the team be able to prove that the murder met all the criteria for a crime against humanity, then it will recommend Komnas HAM to carry out a pro-justicia investigation into the case," Hendardi said on Monday in a press conference.
The 2000 law on human rights court classifies gross human rights violations into two forms: genocide and crimes against humanity, which it defines as a systematic and widespread attack on civilians that includes annihilation, apartheid, ethnicity, forced disappearances, forced prostitution, limitations on physical freedom, murder, rape, slavery, torture and widespread abuse based on ideology.
Roichatul said the team, for instance, would focus on probing whether Munir's assassination had been facilitated by "certain state institutions and using state resources. The settlement of the [Munir] case will be important to prevent it from happening again to human rights defenders in the country," she said.
Munir, who was a prominent human rights campaigner, was killed on Sept. 7, 2004 during a flight to the Netherlands. He died from arsenic poisoning.
Pollycarpus, a former pilot with state-flag carrier Garuda Indonesia, was sentenced in December 2005 to 14 years in prison by judges at the Central Jakarta District Court for putting arsenic in Munir's tea at Singapore's Changi airport, where Munir was en route to Amsterdam.
The Supreme Court increased Pollycarpus' sentence to 20 years in 2008 after he failed to win a case review. In 2013, it was cut to 14 years.
Despite Pollycarpus' sentence, the architect behind the murder has remained at large following the controversial acquittal of former National Intelligence Agency (BIN) deputy chief Muchdi Purwopranjono, who was once charged with masterminding Munir's murder.
In 2009, Muchdi was acquitted by the South Jakarta District Court due to lack of evidence and because key witnesses who had initially made statements against him recanted their accounts.
The link between Muchdi and Pollycarpus was revealed following evidence presented at Muchdi's trial, showing that the two men had made more than 40 calls to each other. Some of the calls were made on a private number, while the remainder were made from BIN telephone numbers.
A government-sanctioned fact-finding team also reported that Muchdi-Pollycarpus telephone conversations, highlighting that Pollycarpus had on several occasions rung a BIN telephone number, using direct inward dialing (DID), which could only be accessed with the permission of the owner, Muchdi.
Last month, Pollycarpus was released on parole signed by Law and Human Rights Minister Yasonna Laoly after the former accumulating a large number of sentence-remissions during his imprisonment. The decision was quickly lambasted by human rights campaigners who have been seeking justice for Munir and other unresolved human rights abuses in the country.