One of Indonesia’s foremost human rights defenders, Munir was known for his fearless advocacy and careful research on human rights violations perpetrated by military and government officials in East Timor, Ambon, and Aceh. Munir died on September 7, 2004, after he was poisoned with arsenic during a flight to Holland.
The outcry following Munir’s death prompted President Yudhoyono to create a fact-finding team. After some initial progress, Yudhoyono failed to adequately support the team’s efforts and has refused to release their final report to the public. A trial led to the conviction of a pilot named Pollycarpus Budihari Priyanto on December 20, 2005. The judge noted that there was a need to investigate former senior intelligence officials implicated in the murder, but there has been little follow-up since the verdict (for more on the inadequacies of the investigation and trial, see White Paper below).
Originally from East Java, Munir worked at the Legal Aid Foundation (LBH) before founding the Commission for Disappearances and Victims of Violence (Kontras) in 1998. Kontras played an important role in the struggle for accountability after the disappearance of pro-democracy activists during the transition. The organization was also at the forefront of human rights investigations into state violence in East Timor, Ambon, and Aceh. Munir helped found a new NGO, Imparsial, and had been serving as its Executive Director.
Munir also served on an inquiry under the National Human Rights Commission after the violence surrounding East Timor’s vote for independence in 1999. He played a significant role in uncovering evidence of military responsibility for the violence and recommending action against high-ranking officers.
Munir was the winner of numerous honors, including being named “young leader for the Millennium” by Asia Week in 2000. The same year he was one of the winners of “The Right Livelihood Award,” known as the “Alternative Nobel Prize,” for “his courage and dedication in fighting for human rights and the civilian control of the military in Indonesia.” In 2005, Munir was awarded a posthumous Civil Courage Prize for his courageous human rights activism.
Munir is survived by his wife Suciwati and two young children. Suciwati has campaigned tirelessly for justice for Munir, both in Jakarta and abroad at the United Nations, in Asia, and the United States. She has also helped bring together victims of other human rights violations to campaign for justice and reform. Human Rights First has hosted Suciwati in the U.S. and has lobbied the US and Indonesian governments to push for progress in the case.
White Paper on Munir Murder Investigation and Trial (09/06/05) (PDF-206KB)
Action Alert - Call on Congress to Support Justice for Munir (10/05/05)
Action Alert - Strike a Blow Against Impunity in Indonesia (06/29/05)
Action Alert - Indonesia Activist Poisoned: Demand Answers (03/02/05)