APSN Banner

Our debt to Munir

Jakarta Post Editorial - September 8, 2022

Editorial board, Jakarta – This is not the first, and most likely not the last, time that we write an editorial about Munir Said Thalib, his tragic death and how the state has, again and again, failed to keep its promise to shed light on his murder and bring its perpetrators to justice.

But this year marks a grim milestone in the long quest for closure in his murder case, which has officially reached its statute of limitation, making it legally impossible for the state to reopen the case should it continue to treat it as an ordinary crime.

It has been 18 years since his assassination on Sept. 7, 2004. He was poisoned and died aboard a Garuda flight from Singapore to Amsterdam. And his killers are still out there, scot-free. Several people accused of committing or abetting the murder were acquitted.

Munir may be just one of many whose lives were unjustly taken for speaking up to power, for standing up against state violence and injustice. But his murder was particularly chilling as it was carried out in the light of the Reform era, a new era of democracy in which no one was supposed to fear for their lives for taking a political stand.

In our eulogy of him 18 years ago, we said "his passing leaves a huge vacuum in a nation that needs a thousand Munirs to address its appalling human rights record".

Then-president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was right to make the case that the killing of Munir was a "test of our history". It is such a shame that he stepped down from power failing that test, setting a precedent for his successor, President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo, who appears to be even less interested in righting the wrongs of the past.

Human rights groups have urged the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) to classify Munir's killing as a gross human rights violation. The commission, however, has been dragging its feet in its response, and was only able to form an ad hoc team to probe the case on Wednesday, the exact day the case expired.

It has announced that commissioners Taufan Damanik and Sandrayati Moniaga, will serve in the newly formed team, along with Amnesty International executive director Usman Hamid. It has yet to announce the other two members of the team.

There is no guarantee that the team will be able to work effectively, given the apparent tensions within the human rights body on whether such a team was needed in the first place, and the fact that the current commissioners will end their term soon.

But we should have learned by now that the fight for justice can be long and painful, especially when the political cards are stacked against such a struggle.

No matter how bleak the picture is, this is our last-ditch attempt to keep our hopes alive that justice will one day be served for Munir and his family, and we can finally end the case the right way, that we can finally pass this one "test of our history".

We owe this to Munir, his family and ourselves.

Source: https://www.thejakartapost.com/opinion/2022/09/07/our-debt-to-munir.htm