Ivany Atina Arbi, Jakarta – Representatives from various human rights groups in the country said on Monday that they would immediately hand a legal opinion to the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) on the assassination of prominent human rights defender Munir Said Thalib on Sept. 7, 2004, which has yet to be resolved completely.
Jakarta Legal Aid Institute director Arif Maulana said on Monday that the legal opinion would encourage Komnas HAM to treat Munir's case as an extraordinary one to allow law enforcers to pursue the case without time limitations.
"It's a problem if the state continuously regards the murder as an ordinary crime because a statute of limitations applies to it. Two years from now, the case could be closed for reaching the time limit of 18 years," Arif said.
"And if we fail to find out who the masterminds behind the case are, they will walk free without punishment," he added.
The law expert further said Munir's case apparently checked all the boxes required by prevailing regulations to be an extraordinary crime, which includes gross human rights violations, comprising crimes against humanity. The 2000 law on human rights courts, meanwhile, defines crimes against humanity as a systemic attack on civilians.
"Munir was a civilian who was intentionally murdered," Arief said, adding that evidence gathered previously by a fact-finding team investigating the killing showed that there was a murder plot involving state institutions, namely the State Intelligence Agency (BIN) and national flag carrier Garuda Indonesia.
On Sept. 7, 16 years ago, Munir was murdered with arsenic aboard a Garuda Indonesia plane on his way to the Netherlands to pursue a master's degree in international law and human rights.
Garuda Indonesia pilot Pollycarpus Budihari Prijanto was found guilty of carrying out the poisoning, but later the Supreme Court only convicted him of document forgery. The fact-finding team found that Pollycarpus had several times contacted a BIN telephone number belonging to then-BIN deputy head Muchdi Purwopranjono on the day of the murder. Muchdi was taken to the court but was later acquitted in a trial in 2008 as witnesses retracted their sworn statements or failed to appear.
A member of the fact-finding team, Usman Hamid, who is director of Amnesty International Indonesia, said the fact-finding process was not properly working due to the lack of cooperation from BIN and the national police to pursue the case.
"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," said Usman, urging President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo to resolve the case as he had pledged before.