For Immediate Release: November 17, 2011
Washington, DC – As President Obama travels to Bali for this week’s Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit, Human Rights First is urging him to question the Indonesian government about ongoing human rights concerns, including impunity for human rights abuses. Human Rights First was in Indonesia this week meeting with human rights defenders, all of whom said that these abuses should be among President Obama’s key concerns.
“Human rights defenders tell us that the lack of accountability and justice for human rights abuses by state actors creates an environment of intimidation and fear. Abusers are empowered by the message that the government will not fully prosecute offenders,” said Human Rights First’s Quinn O’Keefe. “A case that has embodied this problem is the 2004 assassination of leading human rights defender Munir Said Thalib.”
A celebrated human rights lawyer, founder of several prominent human rights institutions and recipient of Human Rights First’s 2006 Human Rights Award, Munir was poisoned while travelling to Holland, where he was to continue his studies. Despite credible evidence of their involvement in his murder, no one at the highest levels of Indonesian intelligence has been brought to justice for this crime.
In 2008, a former deputy of the state intelligence agency, Muchdi Purwoprandjono, was charged with ordering Munir’s murder. His trial was widely criticized because the court failed to compel witnesses to attend and those who did appear recanted their sworn statements or forget them all together. Muchdi was acquitted and set free. Two low-level players have been convicted for their involvement in the crime.
“The lack of justice for those who ordered Munir’s murder is an issue that is not going away. Quite the opposite, obtaining justice in his murder has become a rallying point for human rights defenders in Indonesia. His case has emerged as a symbol of the government’s poor record on bringing human rights abusers to justice,” added O’Keefe. “This case is not unique. There are hundreds of other instances when state actors have not been charged or prosecuted for ongoing human rights abuses or for their ongoing intimidation and harassment of human rights defenders –especially in the conflict areas of Papua and West Papua.”
A coalition of human rights organizations in Indonesia continue to pressure the Attorney General’s office to provide judicial review in Muchdi’s trial, but the government has not answered that request. Additionally, in 2011, the organizations submitted an information request to the intelligence office to compel the release of evidence, including phone records that indicate Muchdi’s guilt.
“President Obama should remind President Yudhoyono of his 2004 promise that Munir’s case would stand as a test to show how far Indonesia had come in the rule of law,” concluded O’Keefe. “President Yudhoyono should publicly support a renewed independent investigation into Munir’s death that would lead to recommendations for prosecution and a case review of past criminal proceedings.”