Mr. Munir Said Thalib, human rights defender, lawyer and co-founder of the Commission for Disappearances and Victims of Violence (KontraS) was assassinated on 7 September 2004 on a flight from Jakarta to the Netherlands.
Mr Munir Said Thalib had a long record of human rights activities and was one of Indonesia’s most prominent human rights and anti-corruption activist. Starting as a legal aid officer in Surabaya in 1989 during Suharto’s oppressive and dictatorial “New Order,” Munir became director of the Semarang Legal Aid Office before taking up the position as chief of field operations for the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI) in Jakarta in 1996. Forming his own human rights watchdog organization KontraS in 1998, Munir was instrumental in bringing rights abuses to the fore in the dying days of the Suharto regime. KontraS continues its work to fight political violence, encourage respect for due process of law, ensure victims’ physical and psychological recovery, and promote reconciliation and peace.
Munir is survived by his wife Suciwati and their two children.
“Human rights in the sense of human solidarity have 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. It is our particular experience in our daily struggle that has led us to this view of human rights. In conditions where society had been divided and alienated, the victims had many barriers to overcome and often blamed each other. But the language of human rights facilitated the process of reconciliation between them and enabled their voice to be heard by the whole of society.” Munir Said Thalib, acceptance speech Right Livelihood Award
See FIDH and KontraS Photo Exhibition in Jakarta “Striving for Human Rights” paying tribute to human rights defenders for their daily commitment towards the universality of human rights
On 7 September 2004, Munir Said Thalib was found dead on a flight from Jakarta to the Netherlands, en route to pursue a masters in human rights law at the Ultrecht University. An autopsy conducted by the Dutch authorities indicates that he had been poisoned with arsenic. Prior to his assassination, Munir had been repeatedly targeted because of his activities for the protection and promotion of human rights. In 2002 and 2003, unknown assailants attacked his office. In August 2003, a bomb exploded outside his house in Bekasi, West Java.
“We will keep trying to uncover the truth behind Munir’s murder, no matter who is involved. The formation of rights-respecting citizens is a more important long term goal than simply relying on Indonesia’s legal system to bring Munir’s killers to account.” Suciwati Munir, on the opening of a museum dedicated to Munir Said Thalib
Status of investigation
In 2004, under Presidential Decree No. 111/2004, the Government created a Fact-Finding Team to investigate Munir’s death and make recommendations thereon. In June 2005, the official investigation team (Tim Pencari Fakta – TPF) had submitted its report to the President of the Republic, Mr. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. The report suggested the involvement of senior executives of the Garuda airline and BIN high-level officials in the death of Munir. However, this report was not used during the trial.
In January 2008, the Supreme Court sentenced Mr. Pollycarpus Budihari Priyanto, a Garuda Airlines pilot and the main suspect, to 20 years’ imprisonment. Mr. Priyanto was suspected of having offered a first class seat to Munir and then of putting arsenic in his orange juice.
In June 2008, Mr. Muchdi Prawiro Pranjono, BIN (State Intelligence Agency) Fifth Deputy from 2001 to 2005, was named as one of the masterminds of Munir’s assassination. In December 2008, the South Jakarata District Court acquitted him of all charges.
On 28 November 2014, Pollycarpus Priyanto, the convicted murderer of Munir, was released from prison after being granted parole 15 days earlier. Pollycarpus served eight years of his 14-year jail term for the murder of Munir.
KontraS alongside Suciwati (Munir’s widow) continue to fight to end impunity for Munir’s assassination.