Subject: Activists Ask Obama to Pressure RI for Justice in Munir Case

The Jakarta Globe

February 20, 2010

NGO Asks Obama to Pressure Indonesia for Justice in Munir Case

by Markus Junianto Sihaloho, Muninggar Saraswati & Camelia Pasandaran

Indonesian human rights activists have used a meeting with US President Barack Obama in Washington in the hope that he will push for a resolution to the murder of human rights campaigner Munir Said Thalib during his visit to Jakarta next month.

Choirul Anam, deputy executive director of the Jakarta-based Human Rights Working Group, said HRWG executive director Rafendi Djamin had met Obama at the White House for a human rights summit organized by Human Rights First and Freedom House. The summit was attended by the Dalai Lama and 22 activists from around the world, he said.

We suggested that Obama pay attention to the murder conspiracy because the settlement of this is very important to the democratization process, law enforcement and law reform, and protection of human rights in Indonesia,” Choirul said.

He said Rafendi also stressed that there were strong indications of a systemic effort to weaken the judicial process and attempts to find the brains behind the operation, allegedly spearheaded by the State Intelligence Agency (BIN).

He noted that the Indonesian justice system had failed to resolve the case, despite the attention given to the murder by the international community.

Munir was a staunch critic of the military’s human rights abuses. He founded the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras).

Munir died after his drink was poisoned with arsenic while on an Amsterdam-bound flight on Sept. 7, 2004.

In the indictment, prosecutors said Muchdi Purwoprandjono, a former top intelligence official, had used his influence at BIN to avenge his ouster as chief of the Army’s Special Forces (Kopassus). It said Muchdi blamed Munir for his ouster because the activist had fiercely criticized him over the alleged kidnapping of students and activists by Kopassus members.

Muchdi was charged but a district court ruled on Dec. 31, 2008, that such a motive could not be proven. The Supreme Court upheld the acquittal in June.

We told Obama that this case was proof that reform of the Indonesian judicial system and its security services had gone nowhere,” Choirul said.

Separately, Haris Azhar, deputy chairman of Kontras, said Indonesia had a special relationship with the United States, which meant the US government had an important role to play in supporting democracy in Indonesia. He said one of the major challenges democracy faced was the murder of Munir.

It is one of the big factors why the US and Obama must give attention to this case — to pressure the Indonesian government to commit to efforts to minimize human rights abuses,” Haris said.

The murder of Munir and failure of the judicial process shows there are still many people in Indonesia who are very powerful and … who are opposed to human rights principles,” he said.

Presidential spokesman Julian Aldrin Pasha could not be reached for comment.

The Supreme Court said recently that it was open to the idea of a case review of its verdict in the Munir murder.


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