Ivany Atina Arbi, Jakarta – The National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) has proposed Sept. 7 to be designated as national human rights defenders day, coinciding with the date of the assassination of prominent human rights activist Munir Said Thalib.
"Dedicating Sept. 7 as national human rights defenders day could further promote the idea of providing support and protection for human rights activists in the country," Komnas HAM commissioner Choirul Anam said in a statement on Monday.
Human rights activists have persistently faced violence, harassment and criminalization to date, Choirul said. "Munir himself was a person who pioneered protection of human rights defenders in Indonesia."
Munir, the cofounder of the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras), was murdered with arsenic on Sept. 7, 2004, aboard a Garuda Indonesia plane on his way to the Netherlands to pursue a master's degree in international law and human rights.
His death apparently followed a series of threats made against his life. A bomb exploded outside his home in Jakarta in 2003 and the Kontras office was previously attacked by mobs who destroyed equipment and took away files containing information about ongoing human rights investigations.
Sixteen years after his death, nobody has legally been held responsible for the crime. Garuda pilot Polycarpus Budihari Priyanto was found guilty of carrying out the poisoning, but later the Supreme Court only convicted him of document forgery.
Pressures have been mounting for years from the public and rights activists for law enforcement to prosecute the murder's mastermind, who remains unknown to this date.
Amnesty International Indonesia said Munir's murder was indicative of the wider culture of impunity enjoyed by perpetrators of attacks against human rights defenders in the country.
The lack of full accountability and the political will to resolve the case contributes to an ongoing climate of fear among human rights defenders, said Amnesty International Indonesia executive director Usman Hamid.
"We call on President Joko Widodo, who has made a public pledge to resolve the case, to take decisive and concrete action. This process can be started by conducting a review of past criminal proceedings into Munir's murder, including alleged violations of international human rights standards," Usman said.
In September 2016, President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo made a public pledge to resolve the case of Munir's murder. But the Indonesian authorities have yet to publish the report into the investigation, in violation of Presidential Decree No. 111/2004 on the establishment of the fact-finding team on Munir's killing, which obligates the government to make the report public.