Human Rights Advocates Urge Bush to Raise Munir Case with Indonesian President

President Bush should ask the Indonesian president about his government’s failure to convict anyone for the fatal poisoning of Munir Said Thalib two years ago, a leading human rights advocacy organization wrote in a letter this week. President Bush meets his Indonesian counterpart, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, in Bogor, Indonesia, on November 20.


“President Bush has spoken passionately about the importance of human rights around the world,” said Maureen Byrnes, Executive Director of Human Rights First. “Now he should encourage justice in a case that is central to the progress of human rights and democracy in Indonesia.”

Munir, a leading human rights lawyer, was fatally poisoned with arsenic on an international flight in September 2004. An off-duty pilot alleged to have links to the state intelligence agency was later convicted of murder, but the charge was reversed in the Supreme Court in October 2006. Others implicated in the crime, including state officials, have never been charged.

Munir’s wife, Suciwati, recently came to the United States to accept an award from Human Rights First and to meet with officials of the U.S. government and the United Nations. Upon her return, the Indonesian government forcefully rejected any international involvement in the case, arguing that domestic law enforcement agencies could handle it. But police have never acted on evidence uncovered by an official fact-finding team, which implicated senior airline staff and intelligence officials. In fact, President Yudhoyono has never released the report of the team as promised in an earlier decree.

A bipartisan group of U.S. Representatives, including the co-chairs of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, recently sent a letter to Yudhoyono calling for action on the case. The November 3 letter states: “We call on you to immediately release the fact-finding team report, so that the recommendations it contains can be fully implemented, including the creation of a new commission with broad legal authorities to fully investigate all evidence, no matter where it may lead.” A previous letter sent in October 2005 was signed by 68 members of Congress.


“Police and prosecutors have had two years to show they are serious about catching Munir’s killers,” said Byrnes. “The Indonesian government’s failure to fully investigate and prosecute those responsible for Munir’s murder is becoming an increasingly important international issue with each passing day.”

The Munir case is just one of a number of major human rights cases in Indonesia that have never been resolved. In some cases, such as the East Timor crimes-against-humanity trials in Jakarta, weak investigations and prosecutions led to acquittals in court. In other cases, such as the killings and disappearances around the fall of the Soeharto regime, no trials were ever held.

Human Rights First letter to President Bush

Congressional letter to President Yudhoyono


Published on November 16, 2006


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