Munir Said Thalib

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Munir Said Thalib
Born(1965-12-08)8 December 1965
Batu, East Java, Indonesia
Died7 September 2004(2004-09-07) (aged 38)
On a flight from Jakarta to Amsterdam
Cause of deathDeliberate arsenic poisoning on board a Garuda Indonesia flight
EducationBrawijaya University
Occupation(s)Lawyer, Executive Director of Indonesian Human Rights Monitor (IMPARSIAL)
Known forCampaigner for human rights
AwardsRight Livelihood Award

Munir Said Thalib (8 December 1965 – 7 September 2004) was an Indonesian activist. Founder of the Kontras human rights organisation and laureate of the 2000 Right Livelihood Award, Munir was assassinated in 2004 while travelling to Utrecht University to pursue a master's degree in international law and human rights.[1] He is one of Indonesia's most famous human rights and anti-corruption activists.

Political activist career[edit]

Munir was born in Batu, East Java into a family of Mixed Hadhrami Arab and Javanese origins,[2] from Kathiri. He studied law at Brawijaya University in Malang in the province of East Java, and later started off his career in 1989 as a legal aid officer in the East Java provincial capital, Surabaya. He became one of Indonesia's leading human rights campaigners[3] and faced intimidation, including death threats. He accused the Indonesian military of human rights violations in East Timor and in the troubled provinces of Papua and Aceh, and accused them of running a criminal network involved in illegal logging and drug smuggling.

He once fractured his hand whilst saving an elderly labourer from being beaten by security officials.[4]

He founded the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (KontraS).[5] His last position was executive director of Indonesian Human Rights Monitor (IMPARSIAL), another Indonesian human rights NGO.

In 2001, while he was investigating Kopassus's role in kidnappings, a bomb package was delivered to his house.[4]

Assassination and aftermath[edit]

Munir was poisoned with arsenic on a flight from Jakarta to Amsterdam on 7 September 2004. He was travelling on state-owned airline Garuda Indonesia Boeing 747-400. It was concluded from Munir's autopsy and eyewitnesses during the trial that he had died two hours before arrival in Schiphol International Airport. He took the arsenic during his flight transit in Singapore, or sometime near that time. In Singapore, Pollycarpus Priyanto, a Garuda pilot at the time and the prime suspect in Munir's trial, left the flight and then went back to Indonesia. Originally he departed from Indonesia by deadheading, with a fake document which allowed him to fly on another flight which was not his scheduled flight. Munir began to suffer acute diarrhea and bouts of vomiting shortly after his flight took off from Singapore to Amsterdam. The cabin crew informed the pilot in command that a passenger was sick, and a doctor who happened to be on the plane was asked to provide medical assistance. However, Munir died around two hours before the plane landed at Amsterdam.[6]

When the results of the autopsy were released two months later, on 12 November, the Netherlands Forensic Institute revealed that Munir's body contained a level of arsenic almost three times the lethal dose. This was later confirmed by Indonesian police.

There were three suspects; Pollycarpus Budihari Priyanto, a former pilot who allegedly gave up his business class seat to Munir during the flight, and two flight attendants. It is alleged that Pollycarpus placed the arsenic in Munir's orange juice, upon orders from Garuda's chief executive at that time, Indra Setiawan.

Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono proclaimed that he will make sure that Munir's killers are brought to justice and quickly convened an independent investigation. However support and resources for the investigation waned, senior officials refused to comply, and the findings were never released.[5][7]

In December 2005, Pollycarpus Budihari Priyanto was found guilty of Munir's murder by an Indonesian court and sentenced to fourteen years imprisonment. Munir's supporters claim that Pollycarpus was acting on orders and that this was not brought out during the court case.

In October 2006, the Supreme Court of Indonesia invalidated the conviction against Pollycarpus, citing insufficient evidence.[1] However, in April 2007, police presented new evidence to prosecutors implicating Pollycarpus .[8]

In October 2007, Indra Setiawan and his deputy, Rohainil Aini, faced trial for providing Pollycarpus with fake documents to board Munir's flight from Jakarta to Singapore. They would have faced a possible death penalty.[9] They were both convicted and imprisoned for Munir's murder, and have appealed their convictions.[10]

In 2007, a Jakarta court found that Garuda was negligent in refusing to perform an emergency landing, and ordered the company to pay 600 million rupiah in compensation to Munir's widow. When Garuda appealed this decision, the supreme court increased the compensation to an undisclosed amount.[11] Garuda then failed to pay the compensation.[12]

In November 2014, Pollycarpus was released from prison.[13]

Pollycarpus died on 16 October 2020 due to COVID-19 during the COVID pandemic after being treated for 16 days.[14]

State Intelligence Agency (BIN) involvement in assassination[edit]

Top-level Indonesian State Intelligence Agency (BIN) officials were implicated in Munir's murder. The chief of police at the time, Sutanto, allegedly knew of the BIN involvement. A BIN deputy chairman, Muchdi Purwopranjono, was tried and acquitted for the murder in what has been internationally condemned as a "sham trial".[5][7] Prosecutors accused Muchdi of ordering the killing out of anger over Munir's criticisms of his Kopassus leadership.[15] Prior to the murder Pollycarpus made at least 26 calls to Muchdi, and a number of calls to a confidential BIN line.[5]

A United States diplomatic cables leak alleged that former BIN chief A. M. Hendropriyono "chaired two meetings at which Munir's assassination was planned" and that a witness at those meetings told police that "only the time and method of the murder changed from the plans he heard discussed; original plans were to kill Munir in his office."[15] When Hendropriyono was first appointed to the BIN it was bitterly condemned by Munir, who was guiding an investigation into Hendropriyono's role in human rights abuses for a prosecution.[5]

Muchdi and Hendropriyono were both summoned for questioning by a presidential fact-finding team, but they refused to comply with the investigation. Recommendations by the team for Hendropriyono's prosecution were completely ignored by the police and the attorney general's office.[5]

In 2014, Hendropriyono admitted to journalist Allan Nairn that he bore "command responsibility" for the assassination, and he was ready to accept being put on trial.[16]

Posthumous honours[edit]

Munir was posthumously awarded the Train Foundation's Civil Courage Prize, which recognizes "extraordinary heroes of conscience".[17]

In 2013 a museum in Malang was opened in his honour.[18]

Personal life[edit]

Munir was married to Suciwati, a labour rights activist at the time. They had two children. His wife is pursuing the investigation of Munir's assassination and works to keep Munir's case and human rights at the centre of Indonesian politics.[19]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Munir murder conviction quashed BBC News
  2. ^ Komisi Untuk Orang Hilang dan Tindak Kekerasan, Bunuh Munir!: Sebuah Buku Putih (2006) ...Munir, atau lengkapnya Munir bin Thalib dibesarkan dalam keluarga muslim keturunan Arab. Kakek moyangnya adalah imigran dari Hadhramaut (Yaman) yang ratusan...
  3. ^ Ramadhan, Hamzah (10 February 2014). "Munir Museum Brings Human Rights Issues to East Java". Jakarta Globe. Retrieved 31 March 2014.
  4. ^ a b Pitaloka, Dyah Ayu (6 September 2014). "Remembering Munir — Human Rights Defender, Brother, Husband, Father and Friend". Jakarta Globe. Retrieved 7 September 2014.
  5. ^ a b c d e f Tibke, Patrick (2 September 2014). "Jokowi's Challenge – Part 3: An end to impunity or same old injustices?". Asian Correspondent. Archived from the original on 6 September 2014. Retrieved 6 September 2014.
  6. ^ "Rights campaigner Munir dies on plane". The Jakarta Post. 8 September 2004. Archived from the original on 16 November 2004.
  7. ^ a b "Secretary Kerry's Trip to Indonesia Should Promote Human Rights". Targeted News Service. 4 October 2013. ProQuest 1439503188.
  8. ^ "New Munir evidence handed over". Jakarta Post. 15 April 2007. Archived from the original on 29 September 2007. Retrieved 15 April 2007.
  9. ^ Forbes, Mark (10 October 2007). "Ex-Garuda chiefs charged over murder". Sydney Morning Herald.
  10. ^ "Denied letter, activists to push to reopen Munir case". Jakarta Post. 5 January 2012. Retrieved 6 September 2013.
  11. ^ "Judicial Commission tells Garuda to pay". Jakarta Post. 20 February 2011. Archived from the original on 18 October 2013. Retrieved 6 September 2013.
  12. ^ "Court summons Garuda over Munir death compensation". Jakarta Post. 14 June 2011. Archived from the original on 18 October 2013. Retrieved 6 September 2013.
  13. ^ "Munir's murderer released on parole".
  14. ^ Andryanto, S. Dian (16 October 2023). "2 Saksi Kunci Pembunuhan Munir: Pollycarpus Meninggal karena Covid-19, Ongen Latuihamallo Tewas Kejang dalam Mobil". Tempo. Retrieved 13 November 2023.
  15. ^ a b Osman, Nurfika (10 September 2011). "WikiLeaks US Cables Point to BIN Role in Munir Murder". Jakarta Globe. Retrieved 6 September 2014.
  16. ^ "As Indonesia's New President Takes Office, Cabinet Includes Officials Tied to Atrocities of Old". Democracy Now. Retrieved 29 October 2014.
  17. ^ "Honorees". Civil Courage Prize. 2010. Retrieved 26 May 2011.
  18. ^ Ayu Pitaloka, Dyah (9 December 2013). "New Museum Brings Munir's Cases, Death To Public View". Jakarta Globe. Retrieved 31 March 2014.
  19. ^ Hegarty, Stephanie (24 May 2011). "Indonesian human rights widow fights for justice". BBC.

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