Urgent Interventions

Ongoing impunity in the assassination of human rights defender Munir Said Thalib

Open Letter to Mr. Henderman Supangji,
State Attorney-General of Indonesia

Paris-Geneva, March 2, 2010

Re: Ongoing impunity in the assassination in 2004 of human rights defender Munir Said Thalib


The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), and the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD) express their deepest concern regarding the ongoing impunity in the assassination in 2004 of Mr. Munir Said Thalib, co-founder of the Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence (KontraS).

Since 2004, only the field executors of the assassination have been sentenced[1] while the suspected mastermind, the former Deputy Chief of Indonesia’s National Intelligence Agency (Badan Intelijen Nasional - BIN), Mr. Muchdi Purwopranjono[2] remains unpunished. Mr. Muchdi was prosecuted in 2008 on charges of ordering the murder, and the trial was seen as an important step in the fight against impunity as it was the first time state authorities were held accountable for State-sponsored or tolerated violence. However, he was acquitted for lack of evidence on December 31, 2008 by the South Jakarta District Court.

An appeal was filed by the Prosecutor against the verdict which was rejected on June 15, 2009 by the Indonesian Supreme Court. The decision to launch a new investigation and subsequently ask a review of the trial lies now with you as the State Attorney General, and our organisations urge that these actions be taken.

In February 2009, the National Commission on Human Rights (Kommas HAM) appointed a public examination team to “verify the evidence and the trial process” that had led to Mr. Muchdi's acquittal. The team reported that Mr. Muchdi's trial and the subsequent appeal by the Prosecutor had suffered from a number of irregularities, including allegations of witness tampering, unprofessional handling of the case by prosecutors, the failure of the district court judge to summon at least two key witnesses for the prosecution, and the appellate court judge's lack of experience in reviewing criminal trials.

The Observatory and AFAD recall that Mr. Munir Said Thalib died on board of a Garuda Airlines flight from Jakarta to Amsterdam on September 7, 2004. Mr. Munir had played a leading role in the investigations on human rights violations perpetrated by the Indonesian army, particularly in East Timor. He had led numerous investigations into the disappearances of activists in Aceh and Papua under General Suharto’s dictatorship including his efforts to prove the culpability of Mr. Muchdi in the disappearances of student activists in 1998. He was also a vocal critic of the intelligence authority of Indonesia for its human rights violations.

The Observatory and AFAD believe that Mr. Munir Said Thalib was murdered due to his human rights activities and that his assassination was also meant to intimidate and threaten all other Indonesian human rights defenders and journalists.

The Observatory and AFAD recall that Mr. Munir's case sadly illustrates the entrenched impunity for the violations of human rights in Indonesia. Our organisations emphasise that this is a crucial test case for the consolidation of the rule of law in Indonesia and the capacity of the Indonesian Government to effectively put an end to impunity.

We express our sincere hope that you will take these considerations and requests into account.

Yours sincerely,

FIDH President Eric SOTTAS
OMCT Secretary General Mary Aileen D. BACALSO
AFAD Secretary-General

[1] Indonesian courts sentenced Mr. Pollycarpus Budihari Priyanto, a Garuda Airlines pilot and the main suspect, to 20 years of imprisonment on January 25, 2008, and Mr. Indra Seviatan, former president of Garuda Airlines, to one year of imprisonment in December 2005.

[2] In June 2005, an official investigation team (Tim Pencari Fakta - TPF) submitted its report to the President of the Republic, Mr. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. The report suggested the involvement of Mr. Muchdi Purwopranjono in the death of Mr. Munir.

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