Conviction Overturned in Murder of Indonesian Human Rights Leader Munir

NEW YORK – Human Rights First today called for a new investigation after Indonesia’s Supreme Court overturned the conviction of the only person serving time for the murder of Munir Said Thalib. The leading human rights lawyer was poisoned on a flight to Amsterdam two years ago.

A co-pilot on an unexplained security assignment, Pollycarpus Budihari Priyanto, was convicted in December 2005 of premeditated murder and of using forged documents. Both convictions were upheld by an appeals court; however this week the Supreme Court affirmed only the forgery charge, which carries a sentence of two years.

“Until now, the shocking thing about this case was that only Pollycarpus had been convicted,” said Maureen Byrnes, Executive Director of Human Rights First. “Now even this murder conviction has been reversed.”

A judge in the original trial noted that Pollycarpus appeared to be part of a conspiracy and called for investigation. Human rights groups have been calling for a new inquiry ever since a fact-finding team created by the president finished its work in June 2005. The president has never released the team’s report, but according to media accounts it implicated senior intelligence officials. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono recently announced that he would revitalize the police investigation.

“The police have failed to act on leads identified by the fact-finding team,” said Byrnes. “There is a clear need for an effective investigation by the Attorney General’s office and the creation of an independent commission with a robust mandate.”

Further investigation was already needed to identify whoever planned and ordered the killing. Now even the existing conviction hangs in the balance. Under some circumstances the Supreme Court can choose to hear a case review (peninjauan kembali) based on new evidence. Alternatively, there is a possibility that a special Human Rights Court could take on the case if the crime is shown to be one that falls under its mandate, such as a crime against humanity. Either option would depend on a new and effective inquiry.

On October 16 Human Rights First will present its annual award to Munir and to his wife Suciwati, in recognition of their contribution to human rights and of the need for accountability in his case.


Published on October 5, 2006


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