On September 7, 2004, Munir, a leading human rights lawyer, was killed on Garuda Flight GA-974 to Amsterdam, where he planned to undertake postgraduate studies. Dutch authorities found a massive dose of arsenic in his system. Munir founded leading human rights organizations, including KontraS and Imparsial, and discovered the role that members of the security forces played in the disappearance of students in 1998 and the violence in East Timor in 1999. (ICTJ - KontraS, 2011)

Time: 7 September 2004, Location: aboard a Garuda flight to Amsterdam

Rights violated: 

  • right to life

Victim: Munir Said Thalib

Chain of events: Munir had discovered the role that members of the security forces had played in the disappearances of students in 1998 and in the violence in East Timor in 1999. Moreover, he was in the process of criticizing a military reform Draft Law.

In December 2004, public outrage led to Presidential Decree No. 111 of 2004 that created a 14-member fact-finding team led by a high-ranking police official and including senior human rights figures. The team was given six months—later extended—to assist the police investigation. The team faced a lack of cooperation from two agencies whose members were implicated through phone records and internal memos: the State Intelligence Agency (BIN) and Garuda, the national airline.32 However, the team completed its investigations and submitted a final report to the president. This implicated senior staff of Garuda and BIN, and recommended creating a new team with a more robust mandate. The government did not create a new team and never released the report, despite domestic and international pressure, and an explicit provision in the decree calling for its public release. (ICTJ - KontraS, 2011)

Four persons have been brought to trial:

  • Pollycarpus Priyanto (off-duty Garuda pilot) convicted
  • Muchdi Purwopranjono (deputy head BIN) acquitted
  • Indra Setiawan (CEO Garuda) convicted to 1 year
  • Rohainil Aini (Secretary CEO Garuda) convicted to 1 year

As a result of the fact-finding team’s work, prosecutors brought cases against three Garuda employees, one intelligence official, and one man, Pollycarpus Priyanto, who appeared to be both. Pollycarpus, a co-pilot, had phoned Munir’s house to check his travel schedule, arranged to be on the same flight as a security officer, and gave Munir his own business-class seat after seeing him at the airport.

At the trial Pollycarpus was convicted of murder, but the Supreme Court overturned the verdict. Following calls from the president, the public, and the international community for a review of this decision, the justices reversed the acquittal following a procedure called peninjauan kembali (PK), or case review. Pollycarpus has been serving a 20-year sentence, but was released in December 2014. Three Garuda officials were also jailed for issuing an unauthorized letter that allowed Pollycarpus to join the flight.

Pollycarpus made more than 40 calls to a senior BIN official, Muchdi Purwopranjono, near the time of the murder and the release of the autopsy. After sustained pressure on police and prosecutors, Muchdi was tried on the basis of witness statements and phone records. The prosecutor alleged that Muchdi had ordered Pollycarpus to carry out the murder. However, some witnesses failed to appear in court, and others who had provided incriminating statements to police withdrew them at trial. Muchdi was acquitted on December 31, 2008.

The following June 2009, the Supreme Court rejected the prosecutor’s appeal. No inquiry has been made into the circumstances that undermined the prosecution’s case at trial by the failure of major material witnesses to give their planned evidence. (ICTJ - KontraS, 2011)

By civil procedure a compensation has been awarded to Munir's widow Suciwati. The Central Jakarta District Court found Garuda Airlines negligent in Munir's death and ordered the company, its managing director adn the pilot tp pay Munir's widow, Suciwati $ 70,000 in compensation. The Supreme Court upheld the award, raising its value to more than $ 380,000. At the time of writing (2011) the payment has not been made. (ICTJ - KontraS, 2011)

In 1998 Muchdi was the commander of Kopassus when civil society investigations that Munir led uncovered the branch’s role in the disappearance of pro-democracy activists. As a result, Muchdi lost his position, but was later made deputy chief of BIN. Promotion of officials implicated in serious human rights violations, such as the Munir and Eluay killings and the crimes against humanity in East Timor, is a common pattern in Indonesia. As of 2011, the courts have not decided on whether to conduct a case review for the trial of Muchdi. Civil society representatives are pushing for an examination of witness tampering and possible corruption in the Muchdi trial. See the documentation sheet on  Muchdi Purwopranjono

In September 2012 many people and organizations reminded President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of his responsibility in this case. In 2015 the new president Joko Widodo was reminded of his promise to reopen the case.

In April 2015 the municipality of The Hague decided to name a bicycling path after Munir. With a small ritual the mayor of The Hague, former Foreign Affairs Minister Jozias van Aartsen, paid tribute to the importance of Munir in Indonesia, but also in the wider context of The Hague as the city of Peace and Justice. Munir's widow Suciwati had been invited from Indonesia to attend the event. munir lane suci

The TPF report should be published (2016)

The 2005 report by the Factfinding Team (Tim Pencari Fakta, TPF) on the murder of human rights defender Munir Said Thalib in 2004 has to be published by the Indonesian goverment. This was the judgment in October 2016 by the Public Information Commission, an independent body deciding on the transparency of governmental information. The State Secretariat that is responsible for the Presidential procedures quickly announced the TPF report had got lost since 2005. The report is supposed to contain information that can be considered as new evidence, sufficient to re-open the investigation and eventual prosecution of the alleged perpetrators of the murder of Munir on 6 September 2004.

Suciwati, widow of the late human rights campaigner Munir Said Thalib, proudly shows off a street sign honoring her late husband in Jakarta on April 11, 2015. The Hague city administration officially named a street after Munir on April 14 last year. (Antara/Reno Esnir)

KIP tells govt to reveal Munir report after 12 years in darkness

The Jakarta Post, 10-10-2016
The Public Information Commission (KIP) ended the state’s 12-year silence on the murder of prominent human rights defender Munir Said Thalib on Monday by ordering the government to officially reveal the investigative findings of a fact-finding team into the case. The KIP stipulated that all the findings the team had submitted to the government in 2005 were public information. Thus the government is obliged to disclose everything to the public. The government is also obliged to explain why the fact-finding team’s report secret has been kept secret for years. The KIP specifically delivered its ruling to the State Secretariat as it was in charge of the government’s administrative paperwork, including any documents sent to the president.
“The State Secretariat must disclose all requested information through any means of communication it utilizes, either electronically or non-electronically,” KIP commissioner Evy Trisulo Dianasari said when reading out the ruling. This ruling was made in response to a public information request jointly filed by Munir’s widow Suciwati, the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) and the Jakarta Legal Aid Institute (LBH Jakarta) in April this year.

Govt to settle past human rights abuses via non-judicialJokowi Allows Legal Process on Missing Documents of Munir’s Case

The Jakarta Globe, 14-10-2016
President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has allowed a legal process to be conducted against the missing investigation documents related to the murder of prominent human rights defender Munir Said Thalib. The missing documents had been submitted to former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono at the State Palace in 2005. “If there is a new novum [existing evidence before a trial process], conduct the legal process,” Jokowi said at Merdeka Palace, Jakarta, Thursday (13/10). The president also ordered a search for the missing documents submitted by the original fact-finding team on Munir’s case. “I have ordered the Attorney General [HM Prasetyo] to find and locate the results of the fact-finding team, as it is not available at the State Secretary Ministry,” Jokowi added. Previously, the coordinator of the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (KontraS) Haris Azhar urged the government to investigate the whereabouts of the documents.

Officials to Face Criminal Charges If They Can't Locate Munir Murder Files

The Jakarta Globe, 15-10-2016
Government officials could face criminal charges if they are unable to find missing investigation files on the 2004 murder of human rights activist Munir Said Thalib, activists say. Public information commissioners earlier this week ordered the government to declassify the files, but the State Secretariat claimed it does not have them or know their whereabouts. Officials are still searching for the files amid pressure from human rights activists, who insisted the files had been submitted by a fact-finding team to former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in 2005. If officials fail to find the files, they could be charged under the 2008 law on public information transparency, a lawyer from the Jakarta Legal Aid Institute (LBH) Ucok Sigit said.
"They should be held responsible. The public will lose out if the documents can't be found. That would be a criminal offense," Ucok told the press on Friday (14/10). The law stipulates that individuals who intentionally dispose of public documents could face up to two years in prison and be fined Rp 10 million ($765). Citing a 2005 presidential regulation on the State Secretariat, human rights group Kontras activist Putri Kanesia said the institution's response to the order was "contradictory."

The regulation says the secretariat is tasked with providing technical and administrative assistance to the president and vice president. Human rights groups are still waiting for the government's response before determining their next move, Kontras coordinator Haris Azhar said. "The state must make an official announcement on the current status of the documents regardless of them having gone missing or not," Haris said. Activists have long demanded that the government find Munir's real killer. The activist was poisoned with arsenic during a layover in Singapore in 2004 before boarding a flight to Amsterdam. Former pilot Pollycarpus Budihari Priyanto was sentenced to 14 years in prison for premeditated murder in the case, but the alleged masterminds behind his murder remain unknown.

The results of the investigation by the fact-finding team have never been made public.