The concept of "statute of limitations" is wellknown and well-accepted in nearly all legal systems around the world. The more serious a crime the longer the period that prosecution can be implemented. For murder this period is 18 years. Only serious human riths violations such as crimes against humanity cannot be limited in time. That is the reason this this seemingly formal condition is so decisive.

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.

In september 2004 human rights defender Munir Said Thalib   was killed by arsenic poisoning. We quote from the website of Amnesty International Indonesia, uploaded on 12 September 2022.

"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 .]

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.