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Indonesia: Authorities have failed the 'test' to resolve Munir's case

Amnesty International Public Statement - September 7, 2012

Index: ASA 21/035/2012

The Indonesian authorities must ensure full accountability for the killing of prominent human rights activist Munir Said Thalib (Munir). The failure to bring all those responsible to justice – eight years after Munir's death – raises serious concerns about Indonesia's willingness to resolve the case and to combat persistent impunity in the country.

In 2004, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono stated that the resolution of the murder of Munir would be a "test of our history" in the context of Indonesia's democratic reform process. Eight years after Munir's death, the Indonesian authorities – including the President – are failing in that test.

As Indonesians mark the anniversary of Munir's death, Amnesty International Directors in 13 countries and territories – Australia, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Nepal, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the Philippines, South Korea, Sweden, Thailand, the United Kingdom and the United States of America – have written to Indonesian government representatives to their country to call on the Chief of Police and Attorney General to establish a new, independent investigation into the murder of Munir and bring perpetrators at all levels to justice in accordance with international human rights standards.

They further called on the Indonesian authorities to immediately make public a 2005 fact-finding report as a key step towards establishing the truth about Munir's killing.

Munir took up the cause of dozens of activists who had been subjected to enforced disappearances during the last months of the Suharto government in 1998. He also played a significant role in uncovering evidence of military responsibility for human rights violations in Aceh and Timor-Leste.

He was found dead on a Garuda Airlines flight from Jakarta to the Netherlands on 7 September 2004. An autopsy carried out by the Dutch authorities showed that he died as a result of arsenic poisoning. Although three people have now been convicted for involvement in the killing, there are credible allegations that those responsible for ordering his murder are still at large.

A 2005 report by an independent fact-finding team established by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has yet to be made public, although publication of the findings had been recommended by the presidential decree that established the team.

On 31 December 2008, Muchdi Purwoprandjono, a former deputy chief of the state intelligence agency, was acquitted of soliciting and assisting in the killing of Munir. Human rights groups had raised concerns that the proceedings did not meet international fair trial standards. In a report submitted to the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights Defenders in 2009, the Action Committee in Solidarity with Munir, KASUM, said Muchdi's trial was "marked by the systematic retraction of prior sworn statements by key witnesses, and by the presence of organized groups seeking to influence the trial". In February 2010, a special National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM) team identified flaws in the police investigation, prosecution and trial of Muchdi Purwoprandjono and recommended a new police investigation. To date these calls have been ignored.

The lack of full accountability in Munir's case contributes to an ongoing climate of fear among human rights defenders and many believe they would be better protected if there was true accountability for Munir's killing. Despite commitments by the Indonesian government to provide adequate protection for human rights defenders – including during Indonesia's recent Universal Periodic Review at the Human Rights Council in May 2012 – they continue to be threatened, intimidated and attacked for their work.

On 20 July 2012 dozens of activists from the organization Solidarity for Victims of Human Rights Violations Papua (SKP HAM Papua) who were raising funds for sick political prisoners were arbitrarily arrested by the Jayapura city police. All were released a few hours later.

On 13 July 2012 the Maluku provincial police charged Oyang Orlando Petrus, a community activist from southwest Maluku, with criminal defamation. He has been a vocal critic of mining in the area and its impact on the environment and was previously attacked and stabbed by unknown persons in April 2012. No one has been brought to justice for the attacks.

On 6 May 2012 Tantowi Anwari, an activist from the Association of Journalists for Diversity (Sejuk) was beaten and kicked by members of the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) in Bekasi while he was covering the disruption of the HKBP Filadelfia church service by the hardline group. Despite filing a police report, no progress has been reported on his case.

Most past human rights violations against human rights defenders, including torture and ill-treatment, possible unlawful killings and enforced disappearances, remain unsolved and those responsible have not been brought to justice.

Amnesty International calls on the Indonesian government to take effective steps to ensure that human rights violations committed against human rights defenders are promptly, effectively and impartially investigated and that those responsible are brought to justice in fair trials. The organization further calls on the government to support the passage of specific legislation aimed at providing better legal protection for human rights defenders, as is scheduled in the 2011-2014 National Human Rights Action Plan.