Indonesian authorities fail to bring to justice the masterminds behind Munir Said Thalib’s murder
5 November 2006 6:00 pm

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Indonesia’s Supreme Court has decided to overturn the guilty verdict of spy-cum-pilot Pollycarpus Budihari Priyanto of premeditated conspiracy to murder prominent human rights defender Munir Said Thalib in September 2004. The move by the court could be another setback for Indonesia’s weak judicial system and further tarnish efforts by the administration of Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to uphold human rights and democracy.The unresolved question of who masterminded the murder of Indonesia’s prominent human rights defender Munir Said Thalib deepened on 4 October 2006, after Indonesia’s Supreme Court overturned the guilty verdict of an off-duty Garuda Indonesia pilot, Pollycarpus Budihari Priyanto, convicted of poisoning Munir by Central Jakarta District Court. The new court ruling that Pollycarpus was only guilty of falsifying documents has again raised the question of Indonesia’s judicial system. Munir’s family and human rights defenders in Indonesia and the world over have been asking for more than two years: who are the real masterminds behind Munir’s murder and when will they be brought to Justice?

Munir Said Thalib was murdered with a fatal dose of arsenic in his drink on a flight bound for The Netherlands two years ago. He was known as a vocal critic of Indonesia’s armed forces, which committed gross human rights violations namely in Papua, Aceh and East Timor, during the 32-year rule of authoritarian former Indonesian president Haji Mohammad Suharto.

Even when the Indonesian courts had found Pollycarpus guilty of premeditated conspiracy to murder Munir at the end of 2005, it noted that Pollycarpus did not act alone and urged the police to conduct further investigation in order to uncover those responsible for the death of Munir. Earlier, in June 2005, a government-appointed fact-finding team had handed over its report to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono with some recommendations that several former National Intelligence Agency (BIN – Badan Intelijen Nasional) officials need to be investigated. However, it was neither released to the public nor used in the court proceedings.

The failure of the Indonesian government to hold Munir’s murderers accountable is an illustration of impunity that still reigns in Indonesia, despite promises made by President Yudhoyono, who had even made public statements during the Asia-Europe Meeting in Finland last month to continue to investigate the high-profile case and bring the perpetrators to justice immediately.

“The legal process concerning Munir’s murder has never been stopped and let me tell you again that it’s still ongoing,” Yudhoyono was quoted as saying during a meeting with journalists at the Indonesian embassy in Helsinki, Finland.

FORUM-ASIA urges the Indonesian government to make public the report of the fact-finding team and establish another independent team to continue investigations into the case.

No effort should be spared to ensure all masterminds behind Munir’s murder are brought to justice. Munir’s case would be a litmus test of the Indonesian government’s pledges to promote and protect human rights as a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council. Failing to do so will only mean a setback of Indonesia’s struggle to be accountable and to uplift human rights.

For further details, please contact Tadzrul Tahir Hamzah (tad@forum-asia.org), Timor Leste/ Indonesia Programme Coordinator.