No Justice Ten Years After Munir’s Assassination

Washington, D.C. – On the tenth anniversary of the assassination of leading Indonesian human rights defender Munir Said Thalib, Human Rights First urged the U.S. government to call on Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY) to hold accountable those responsible for his death.

“A decade on and Munir’s family and colleagues are still waiting for justice,” said Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley. “In 2004, SBY promised that those responsible for Munir’s death would be held accountable, and said that resolving Munir’s murder would be a ‘test of our history’ for Indonesia’s democratic reform process.  It’s a test Indonesia has so far failed.”

Originally from East Java, Munir worked at the Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI) before founding the human rights nongovernmental organization (NGO) KontraS, or, The Commission for Disappearances and Victims of Violence. He was a fierce champion for accountability and justice on behalf of disappearance victims.  KontraS has been widely recognized for its work on the disappearance of pro-democracy activists.  Munir also helped found a new NGO, Imparsial, and served as its executive director.

Munir was poisoned with arsenic in September 2004 while traveling from Jakarta to Amsterdam to study international humanitarian law.  He was 38 years old.  In 2006, Human Rights First posthumously honored Munir with the organization’s Human Rights Defender Award.  His work lives on through the organizations he helped create in Indonesia and throughout the region, and in a generation of young activists he inspired to fight for justice.  Munir is survived by his wife Suciwati and two children.  Suciwati has campaigned tirelessly for justice for Munir, both in Jakarta and abroad at the United Nations, in Asia, and the United States.

Ten years after the SBY promise, the initial investigation results have not been publicly released. Though two low-level players have been convicted for their involvement in the crime, no high ranking government or state intelligence agency official has been held accountable for planning or ordering Munir’s assassination.  Despite years of stagnancy, the Indonesian government has rejected international involvement in the case, insisting domestic law enforcement agencies were up to the task.

“The United States government should make clear to outgoing President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono that it expects him to deliver on his promise to resolve the case – beginning with the release of the June 2005 report results generated by the independent fact-finding team he commissioned – and to prioritize a new independent investigation into all levels of involvement.  It should also urge President-elect Joko Widodo to keep the protection of human rights defenders at the forefront of Indonesian policy,” added Dooley.


Published on September 5, 2014


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