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
- 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.
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.
“Of course the murder of Munir is a serious human rights violation”: Usman Hamid, director of Amnesty International Indonesia declines invitation of the Komnas HAM
Press Release Amnesty International Indonesia, 07-09-2022
The murder of human rights defender Munir is a serious human rights violation, said Amnesty International this morning at a meeting commemorating that Munir died 18 years ago. “All evidence is available that this was an attack against a human rights defender such as Munir. The attack was systemic as a part of state policy especially by the BIN (the National Intelligence Body).
The attack resulted in Munir’s death [in 2004] and forms a threat for the safety of all other human rights defenders,” said Usman Hamid, executive director of Amnesty International Indonesia.
“Of course Komnas HAM should declare the murder a serious human rights violation in the category of crimes against humanity and not delay the procedure further, “ he added.
The final report by the Tim Pencari Fakta (TPF) Munir has shown that his death is related to his activities as a human rights defender, including his criticism against state institutions such as the BIN. In its recommendations the TPF pressured the President to establish an Independent Investigation Team and to order the Head of the Indonesian Police to implement an in-depth investigation into 5 persons, including the Head of the BIN considering their possible role in the attack against Munir.
As it turns out only three persons have been prosecuted in relation to the death of Munir, all of them staff of Garuda Airlines. However, there is a strong suspicion that the most important suspect responsible for the death of Munir, has not yet been judicially investigated.
The former staff member of BIN, Muchdi Purwopranjono has been prosecuted in 2008, but he was acquitted. Then in 2016 President Joko Widodo promised publicly that he would solve the case.
Up till this day the Indonesian Government has not published that final TPF report [of 2005]. That precisely is in violation with the Presidential Decree no. 111/2004 on the Establishment of the Special Fact Finding Investigation Team on the death of Munir, which formally ordered the government to publish the TPF report so that the Indonesian society would be informed.
“There is a serious problem in this country with regard to the prosecution of serious human rights violations of the past. The victims and their relatives are often not heard, then how can they get justice,“ said Usman Hamid.
On September 7, 2020, the Action Committee for Solidarity for Munir (KASUM) submitted a judicial opinion with regard to the death of Munir to the Komnas HAM, as part of a formal complaint. The aim was to have the Komnas HAM declare this case a serious human rights violation, so that a procedure of special investigation based on the Law 26/2000 can be started without delay.
“Two years have passed since and only now the Komnas HAM has announced the establishment of an ad-hoc team after the formation of a team for analysis. I appreciate the trust that has been given to me to become a member of the ad-hoc team, but I decline this appointment. The Komnas HAM should immediately declare the murder of Munir as a serious human rights violation. For us there is no doubt anymore that this is a crime against humanity,” said Usman.
“Moreover the working period of the commissioners will only be two months more. That will make it the more difficult for the ad-hoc team to work effectively and cover all aspects comprehensively, including those members of the Komnas HAM who want to continue working on the results of their work.
On September 7, 2022, three commissioners, Taufan Damank, Sandra Moniaga and Choirul Anam announced the formation of an ad-hoc team to investigate the suspicion of a serious human rights violation of the murder of human rights defender Munir Said Thalib. The team will consist of the Komnas HAM members, its Chairperson Taufan Damanki and Sandrayati Moniaga and three persons from other human rights organisations.
In its press-release the Komnas HAM said it was still looking for three members from external organisations and mentioned Usman Hamid as one of the possible external members of the team who had expressed his willingness. However, he had not yet been consulted and Usman has requested some time to consider, and decided to decline the invitation in the end.
[Translated by Martha Meijer https://www.amnesty.id/terbaru/siaran-pers/ .]
Amnesty chief won't join Munir ad hoc team, wants case declared gross rights violation
Kompas.com - September 7, 2022
Amnesty International Indonesia Executive Director Usman Hamid has refused an offer to become a member of the Munir Murder Case Ad Hoc Investigation Team being formed by the National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM). "Yes, that's correct (I refused to become a member of the ad hoc team)", said Hamid in an SMS message on Wednesday September 7.
Hamid refused to join the team because in his view the assassination of renowned human rights defender Munir Said Thalib was clearly a gross human rights violation.
Because of this, he believes that Komnas HAM does not need to form an ad hoc team to determine if the case is a gross human rights violation. "I appreciate the trust given to me [in asking me] to become an ad hoc team member but I have refused the appointment. Komnas HAM must immediately declare the Munir assassination as a gross human rights violation. For us, there is no longer any doubt that this crime was a crime against humanity", said Hamid.
In addition to this, Hamid said that the work of the ad hoc team to be formed by Komnas HAM would be difficult to implement because its commissioners are due to be replaced in two months’ time.
On the other hand, Hamid also said that Komnas HAM already has all of the evidence needed to designate the case as a gross human rights violation. "Komnas HAM must indeed immediately declare Munir's case as a gross human rights violation in the category of crimes against humanity, without delaying it further", he said.
Earlier, Komnas HAM appointed five members to the ad hoc team to investigate whether or not the Munir case is an alleged gross human rights violation. One of them was Hamid who was formerly [in 2005] the secretary of the Fact Finding Team (TPF) into the Munir murder case.
Komnas HAM Chairperson Ahmad Taufan Damanik explained that the commission appointed two Komnas HAM commissioners as internal representatives on the team, namely himself and research division commissioner Sandrayati Moniaga. The other three member of the team will be members of the public who are acquainted with the Munir case.
"One of the three has already been contacted and has declared their readiness [to join the team], namely Brother Usman Hamid. We are in the process of contacting the other two to ask if they are ready, but because there has not been any response yet, we can't mention their names today", said Damanik during a press conference at the Komnas HAM offices in Jakarta on Wednesday. In the end however, Hamid refused to join the team after asking for time to make a decision.
[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Usman Hamid Tolak Jadi Anggota Tim Ad Hoc Kasus Pembunuhan Munir".]
Our debt to Munir
The Jakarta Post editorial, 08-09-2022
This is not the first, and most likely not the last, time that we write an editorial about Munir Said Thalib, his tragic death and how the state has, again and again, failed to keep its promise to shed light on his murder and bring its perpetrators to justice.
But this year marks a grim milestone in the long quest for closure in his murder case, which has officially reached its statute of limitation, making it legally impossible for the state to reopen the case should it continue to treat it as an ordinary crime.
It has been 18 years since his assassination on Sept. 7, 2004. He was poisoned and died aboard a Garuda flight from Singapore to Amsterdam. And his killers are still out there, scot-free. Several people accused of committing or abetting the murder were acquitted. Munir may be just one of many whose lives were unjustly taken for speaking up to power, for standing up against state violence and injustice.
But his murder was particularly chilling as it was carried out in the light of the Reform era, a new era of democracy in which no one was supposed to fear for their lives for taking a political stand. In our eulogy of him 18 years ago, we said “his passing leaves a huge vacuum in a nation that needs a thousand Munirs to address its appalling human rights record”. then-president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was right to make the case that the killing of Munir was a “test of our history”. It is such a shame that he stepped down from power failing that test, setting a precedent for his successor, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, who appears to be even less interested in righting the wrongs of the past.
Human rights groups have urged the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) to classify Munir’s killing as a gross human rights violation.
The commission, however, has been dragging its feet in its response, and was only able to form an ad hoc team to probe the case on Wednesday, the exact day the case expired.
It has announced that commissioners Taufan Damanik and Sandrayati Moniaga, will serve in the newly formed team, along with Amnesty International executive director Usman Hamid. It has yet to announce the other two members of the team. There is no guarantee that the team will be able to work effectively, given the apparent tensions within the human rights body on whether such a team was needed in the first place, and the fact that the current commissioners will end their term soon.
But we should have learned by now that the fight for justice can be long and painful, especially when the political cards are stacked against such a struggle. No matter how bleak the picture is, this is our last-ditch attempt to keep our hopes alive that justice will one day be served for Munir and his family, and we can finally end the case the right way, that we can finally pass this one “test of our history”.
We owe this to Munir, his family and ourselves.