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Indonesia: Eight years of impunity and injustice on Munir's case

A Statement from the Asian Human Rights Commission - September 7, 2012


The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) is saddened that after eight years of the assassination of Munir Said Thalib, there has been no sign from the government that it will take the necessary measures to bring those responsible for the killing to justice.

Munir was a prominent and outspoken human rights activist in Indonesia. On September 7, 2004, he was on a flight with the national airline, Garuda Indonesia, to Amsterdam to pursue his further studies on human rights when Pollycarpus Budihari Priyanto assassinated him. After a long legal battle, Pollycarpus was convicted and found guilty for the assassination and sentenced to twenty years of imprisonment. Two people from the airline's management, Indra Setiawan and Rohainil Aini, were also sent to a year of imprisonment for aiding and abetting Pollycarpus in the assassination.

The conviction and punishment of the three civilians, however, does not mean that justice has been obtained in this case. It is strongly believed that they were only the executors of a plan instigated by more powerful actors who were not pleased with Munir's critical views and activities. There is a strong allegation that the Deputy Director of the National Intelligence Agency at that time, Major General Muchdi Purwoprandjono, was responsible for Munir's death. A legal proceeding against him was initiated in 2009 but he was acquitted by the court. Human rights activists claim there have been irregularities during the trial, including the failure of to bring some witnesses to appear in court and the withdrawal of testimonies by witnesses who provided incriminating statements against Muchdi. Such claims have been reaffirmed by the National Human Rights Commission's (Komnas HAM) findings which reveal there were flaws in the legal proceedings against Muchdi Pr.

Despite President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's repeated remarks and promises to bring justice in this matter, there have not been any actions conducted by the government of Indonesia to follow up the finding of Komnas HAM. Instead, in 2011, the Ministry of Law and Human Rights reduced the length of Pollycarpus' sentence by 9 months and 5 days without any clear reasoning.

The failure to punish the main actors of Munir's assassination reflects upon the state of the rule of law in Indonesia. The efforts undertaken by the Indonesian government to reform its military and to create an independent judiciary have been jeopardised by its failure to seriously prevent any political influence in Munir's case. Along with KontraS, the AHRC has previously emphasised in our submission to the UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) on Indonesia this year that the failure of the judiciary to hold responsible all perpetrators in Munir's case shows the extent of politicisation of the judicial, prosecution and policing systems, as well as the immunity that high ranking military and intelligence officials enjoy. The lack of commitment from the government to bring justice in this case also reflects its lack of sincerity to provide protection for human rights defenders in Indonesia.

In the UPR session in May this year, the Indonesian government supported the recommendations given by Turkey and Austria on combating impunity. It also accepted the recommendations delivered by various countries regarding the provision of adequate protection for human rights defenders in its territory. Given the above, the AHRC is urging the Indonesian government to prove such commitments by ensuring the punishment of all those responsible for the death of Munir. Furthermore, the AHRC is calling upon the government to ensure that any intimidation and attack against the human rights defenders in general are adequately and effectively investigated and the perpetrators are punished proportionately according to law and international human rights standards.

About AHRC

The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation that monitors human rights in Asia, documents violations and advocates for justice and institutional reform to ensure the protection and promotion of these rights. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.