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September 06, 2012

Questions Remain Unanswered Eight Years After Munir’s Death

Photo of Munir Said Thalib

On September 7, 2004, leading Indonesian human rights defender Munir Said Thalib was poisoned with arsenic on a flight from Jakarta to Amsterdam. Eight years later, the Indonesian government still refuses to release the results of the investigation into his death. Despite credible evidence implicating high-level intelligence officers, none has been brought to justice.

In 2008, charges were brought against a former deputy of the state intelligence agency, Muchdi Purwoprandjono, for 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 forgot them all together. Muchdi was acquitted and set free. Two low-level players have been convicted.

“The Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has said that this case is a test of our history. He must show the political will to see it through, to instruct the Attorney General’s office and the police to pursue prosecutions,” said Indria Fernida of the Commission for Disappeared Persons and Victims of Violence (KontraS), one of the human rights groups Munir founded.

Munir, 38 at the time of his death, is survived by his wife, Suciwati, and two children. He was fearless in calling for investigations into the roles played by high-ranking military officials in grave human rights abuses and inspired a generation of others to do the same. In 2006, Human Rights First posthumously honored Munir by giving him its Human Rights Defender Award.

Munir’s assassination and the Indonesian government’s handling of the case show there is no accountability for human rights abuses at the highest levels in the Indonesian government.