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For immediate release, November 9, 2005

U.S. Congress Calls for Justice for Slain Indonesian Human Rights Hero

Human rights group says investigation and prosecution falls short

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.” (A facsimile of the full letter can be found at: http://www.humanrightsfirst.info/pdf/05118-hrd-indonesia-sby-ltr.pdf or below ).

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:http://www.humanrightsfirst.org/defenders/hrd_indonesia/letters/munir-white-paper-090605.pdf

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Human Rights First is a leading human rights advocacy organization based in New York City and Washington, DC. Since 1978, we have worked in the U.S. and abroad to create a secure and humane world ­advancing justice, human dignity, and respect for the rule of law. All of our activities are supported by private contributions. We accept no government funds. Visit our web site: www.humanrightsfirst.org

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono
Istana Merdeka
Jakarta 10110 Indonesia

Dear President Yudhoyono,

We have watched with admiration as Indonesia held three successful national elections last year and then carried out unprecedented local elections in 2005. As Indonesia's first directly-elected president, you have a strong mandate to act on behalf of the Indonesian people.

As members of the United States Congress who are concerned about human rights around the world, we are concerned about the murder and subsequent investigation of the renowned Indonesian human rights lawyer, Munir Said Thalib. We were pleased when you created a fact-finding team last December to investigate the murder of Munir, and your spokesman stated, "The President will do whatever it takes to solve this case." Now, soon after the anniversary of Munir's death, your action is needed.

Presidential Decree No. 111 of 2004 states that "It is the government that will subsequently announce the results of the team's investigation to the public." As a first step, we urge you to release the report of the fact-finding team.

We are following the ongoing trial of Garuda employee, Pollycarpus Budihari Priyanto with interest and concern. We are surprised and troubled that the police and prosecution seem to have ignored the findings of the fact-finding team.

We urge the Indonesian government to consider acting on the fact-finding team's recommendations. For example, we understand the reports suggests that the government should create a new commission with a strong mandate to explore the evidence wherever it may lead, including enforcement of full cooperation of all state agencies, including the State Intelligence Agency (BIN).

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.

Thank you for your consideration of this important matter. We look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

Jim McDermott (D-WA), Mark Kirk (R-IL)

Joseph Crowley (D-NY), Dan Burton (R-IN), Robert Wexler (D-FL), Donald Payne (D-NJ), Michael McNulty (D-NY), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Chris Smith (R-NJ), Thomas Tancredo (R-CO), Eni Faleomavaega (D-AS), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Allyson Schwartz (D-PA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Tom Lantos (D-CA), Adam Smith (D-WA), Stephen Lynch (D-MA), James Oberstar (D-MN), Maurice Hinchey (D-NY), Lloyd Doggett (D-TX), John Lewis (D-GA), Earl Blumenauer (D-WA), Nita Lowey (D-NY), Lane Evans (D-IL), Mark Udall (D-CO), Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), Henry Waxman (D-CA), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Jim Moran (D-VA), Howard Berman (D-CA), Jim McGovern (D-MA), Jesse Jackson Jr (D-IL), Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), James Langevin (D-RI), Steven Rothman D-NJ), Pete Stark (D-CA), Linda Sanchez (D-CA), Patrick Kennedy (D-RI), Gregory Meeks (D-NY), Carolyn Kilpatrick (D-MI), Rob Andrews (D-NJ), Ted Strickland (D-OH), Diane Watson (D-CA), Christopher Shays (R-CT), Jose Serrano (D-NY), William Clay (D-MO), Jim Leach (R-IA), Frank Wolf (R-VA), Ed Markey (D-MA), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Betty McCollum (D-MN), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Joseph Pitts (R-PA), Todd Akin (R-MO), Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Sam Farr (D-CA), Mary Meehan (D-MA), Gwen Moore (D-WI), Mike Pence (R-IN), Nydia Velazquez (D-NY), Charles Dent (R-PA), Timothy Bishop (D-NY), Michael Honda (D-CA), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Lynn Woolsey (D-CA), Jim Gerlach (R-PA)

 

see also Attack on Indonesian Human Rights Supporters Highlights Need for Accountability

U.S. NGOs Write Indonesian President on Murder of Rights Activist Munir


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