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November 09, 2005

U.S. Congress Calls for Justice for Slain Indonesian

Human rights group says investigation and prosecution
falls short


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NEW YORK, November 9 – A bipartisan group of 68 members of the U.S. House of Representatives sent a letter to the Indonesian President last week urging action on the case of a murdered human rights lawyer, Munir Said Thalib. Munir was fatally poisoned on a flight to Amsterdam on September 7, 2004. After a Dutch autopsy revealed a massive dose of arsenic in his system, President Yudhoyono appointed an official fact-finding team to look into the death.

The team’s report was completed in June 2005 but was never released. According to media reports, it implicated senior officials at both the state airline and the State Intelligence Agency. But when the trial of a copilot charged with poisoning the activist began in August, the prosecution failed to mention the report or its findings, sparking fears that whoever ordered the killing would never be identified.

“Almost 70 members of Congress joined in calling for justice for Munir because this case is so important to the future of human rights in Indonesia,” said Neil Hicks, Director of International Programs at Human Rights First. “Munir’s family and friends, and all Indonesians, deserve to know the truth about who killed this courageous activist.”

The bipartisan letter, which was co-sponsored by Representatives Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Jim McDermott (D-WA), closes by noting “Munir devoted his life to finding the truth, and in the end he gave his life for that cause. Now his own death is the subject of an unprecedented fact-finding report. We strongly urge your government to fulfill Indonesia's promise as an open and democratic society by publicly releasing the report and acting on its recommendations.” (The full text of the letter can be found at: http://www.humanrightsfirst.info/wp-content/uploads/pdf/05118-hrd-indonesia-sby-ltr.pdf).

According to members of the fact-finding team, these recommendations include the creation of a commission with a robust mandate and the full backing of the president to continue the investigation into Munir’s death. The team, which was headed by a police general and included leading human rights figures and a top prosecutor, also reportedly recommended an audit of the police investigation to determine why it has not been able to identify Munir’s killers.

Presidential Decree No. 111 of 2004, which established the fact-finding team, states that “It is the government that will subsequently announce the results of the team's investigation to the public.”

Munir’s case has increasingly become the subject of international concern. In June, his wife, Suciwati, was accompanied by Human Rights First in meetings with State Department officials in Washington, D.C. In September, Human Rights First released a White Paper on the case, available at:

/wp-content/uploads/pdf/munir-white-paper-090605.pdf