Munir Said Thalib
Munir was a prominent and internationally renowned human rights defender who was a vocal critic of the Indonesian Government and the military for its human rights abuses both in East Timor and Indonesia
After being educated at Brawijaya University in Malang, East Java, Munir worked as a legal aid officer for the East Java Branch of the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI) and during the 1990s was legal counsel for a number of victims of official violence and repression. Munir first came to public prominence at the end of the Suharto period through his role in the campaign that ensued when, in late 1997 and early ’98, a number of pro-democracy activists were abducted in suspicious circumstances. At the height of this campaign, Munir founded the Commission for Disappearances and Victims of Violence (Kontras). In September 1999, Munir was appointed as a member of the Commission to Investigate Human Rights Violations in East Timor (KPPHAM) and in 2002 Munir co-founded Indonesian Human Rights Watch (Imparsial). As recognition of his achievements in the field of human rights, Munir was awarded the Right Livelihood Award in 2000. In the same year, he was also was named Man of the Year by the leading Muslim periodical UMMAT, and as a ‘young leader for the Millennium in Asia’ by Asia Week.
Munir was assassinated on September 7, 2004 on a Garuda Airways flight from Indonesia to The Netherlands where he intended to pursue a Master’s degree in international law and human rights. An autopsy conducted by the Dutch Forensic Institute showed that Munir died of arsenic poisoning.
Investigation and Trial
In December 2004 the Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono established an independent Fact Finding Team to investigate the murder. The team identified Garuda pilot Pollycarpus Budihari Priyanto as a primary suspect in the case, but suggested that high-ranking Indonesian State Intelligence officials and senior employees of Garuda Airlines were involved in Munir’s death. Despite repeated requests, the report of the Fact Finding Team has not been made public to date. In April 2007, various senior employees of Garuda Airlines including the former Director, Mr. Indra Setiawan, the Vice President of Corporate Security, Mr. Ramelgia Anwar, and Secretary to the Chief Pilot, Ms. Rohainil Aini were arrested as suspects. Mr Setiawan has been sentenced to one year imprisonment. In January 2008, Pollycarpus was sentenced to 20 years in prison for Munir's pre-meditated murder.
International pressure has mounted on the Indonesian government in recent months to more fully investigate Munir's death. In April 2008, the European Parliament signed a declaration calling on
the Indonesian authorities to take all necessary action to ensure that those responsible for the murder at all levels are brought to trial and justice is delivered as quickly as possible.
This pressure has contributed to significant progress in the investigation of the involvement of high-ranking intelligence officials.
On June 20 2008, the former deputy head of Indonesia's top intelligence body, Muchdi Purwo-prandjono, was arrested for alleged involvement in Munir's murder.
‘Human rights in the sense of human solidarity has created a new universal and equal language going beyond racial, gender, ethnic or religious boundaries. That is why we consider it a doorway to dialogue for people of all socio-cultural groups and all ideologies’ (Munir)
Asian Human Rights Commission – Urgent Appeals
Diplomacy Training Program - making a difference
Human Rights First – Human Rights Defenders: Munir
Kontras (Commission for Disappearances and Victims of Violence)
VoaNews: UN Says Situation of Human Rights Defenders in Indonesia Still Needs Improvement
The Right Livelihood Award
Imparsial: The Indonesian Human Rights Monitor
TAPOL: the Indonesia Human Rights Campaign
Faculty of Law, University of New South Wales
NSW 2052 Australia
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