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Urgent Interventions

Indonesia: Open Letter: Assassination of Mr. Munir, threats to his family

Open Letter to Mr. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono,
President of the Republic of Indonesia

Paris-Geneva, December 1, 2004

Dear Mr. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono,

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint Programme of FIDH and OMCT, would like to express its deep concern about the circumstances of the death on September 7, 2004, of Mr. Munir, 38 years old, one of the founding members of the Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence (KONTRAS).

On November 11, 2004, the Dutch Forensic Institute made public the findings of an autopsy revealing the presence of a lethal dose of arsenic in Mr. Munir’s body, which confirmed the fears that his death on a Garuda Airlines flight from Jakarta (Indonesia) to Amsterdam (the Netherlands), via Singapore, was in fact an assassination. It has been reported that he started feeling sick before the transit in Singapore and died on September 7, 2004, shortly before landing in the Netherlands.

Moreover, on November 20, 2004, Mr. Munir’s wife, Mrs Suciwati, received a dead chicken by mail at home with a threatening note warning her that if she linked her husband’s murder to the TNI (the Indonesian Armed Forces), she would be killed. She immediately reported the death threat to the police but they arrived at her house only four hours later. According to Mrs Suciwati, she and her late husband used to receive threats in the past.

The Observatory considers that this threat further suggests that Mr. Munir’s death was a politically-motivated assassination, which represents a serious threat to the human rights community in Indonesia as a whole. The Observatory recalls that Mr. Munir had played a leading role in investigating human rights violations committed by the Indonesian Army, notably in East Timor. He had taken up numerous cases of disappeared activists in Indonesia, from Aceh to Papua, during the Suharto dictatorship. He had also been active in the Legal Aid Foundation. In 1999, he was appointed as a member of the Commission to investigate human rights violations in East Timor, set up by the Indonesian National Human Rights Commission.

Moreover, the Observatory would like to recall that KONTRAS’ headquarters, and in particular its founder Mr. Munir, had already been attacked in 2002 and twice in May 2003 in relation to its members’ human rights activities as well as for its criticism against the Indonesian government’s policy in handling the Aceh problem (see Observatory Appeals IDN 001 / 0503 / OBS 026 and IDN 001 / 0302 / OBS 020).

The Indonesian authorities initiated an enquiry into Mr. Munir’s death following the announcement of the results of the autopsy. In addition, at a meeting held last week, government representatives including Your Excellency, Mrs Suciwati and NGO representatives reportedly agreed upon the setting up of an independent team in order to investigate the case, in addition to the criminal investigation that had been initiated, due to the seemingly political nature of the assassination.

The Observatory totally supports this and any other initiative which can contribute to a fully independent enquiry in this case, and strongly urges the Indonesian authorities, and Your Excellency in particular as the President of Indonesia, to ensure that an impartial and thorough investigation be conducted into Mr. Munir’s assassination, in order to identify those responsible and bring them to justice.

In addition, the Observatory urges Your Excellency to make sure that Mr. Munir’s wife receives the integral autopsy report issued by the Dutch Forensic Institute. Moreover, the Observatory considers that providing protection to the victim’s family is extremely urgent under the present circumstances.

More generally, the Observatory calls upon the authorities to conform with the provisions of the Declaration on the Protection of Human Rights Defenders adopted in December 1998, by the UN General Assembly, in particular article 1, which states that “everyone has the right, individually or in association with others, to promote the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels” and article 12(2) which states that “the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present declaration”.

The Observatory also urges the Indonesian authorities to guarantee the respect of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and international human rights instruments ratified by Indonesia.

In the hope you will take these considerations and requests into account,

We remain,

Sidiki KABA
President of FIDH

Director of OMCT
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