|Subject: Indonesian President Orders Probe
into Activist's Death
AFP, December 22, 2005
Indonesian President Orders Probe into Activist's Death
Indonesia's president has ordered a probe into last year's poisoning of human rights activist Munir after a court convicted a pilot for the murder.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono also urged government bodies to cooperate in the investigation, he said, amid suspicions the national intelligence agency was involved.
"The president has ordered the national police chief to thoroughly investigate the Munir case so that things can be completely unravelled," spokesman Andi Mallarangeng said.
"It is not easy to solve a crime of this nature. The president has asked government agencies to work together to help police so that our legal system can work well," he said.
A Jakarta court on Tuesday jailed Pollycarpus Priyanto for 14 years for lacing Munir's food with a lethal dose of arsenic aboard a Garuda Indonesia flight last year.
The activist, 38, was known as a fearless rights campaigner.
He provided legal counsel for victims of officially-sanctioned violence and repression during president Suharto's more than three decades rule, and also worked to expose military involvement in human rights violations during East Timor's 1999 independence vote.
Activists see the case as a test of Yudhoyono's dedication to ensuring the rule of law as Indonesia emerges from the shadow of the Suharto era, when the military could eliminate its enemies with impunity.
The president pledged after his death to do everything in his power to solve the crime.
Priyanto, a Garuda Indonesia pilot who was on the plane as a passenger on the day of the murder, has denied any wrongdoing and is appealing the sentence.
The judges said there was evidence that in plotting the killing, the pilot made frequent telephone contact with a mobile phone registered to a former deputy chief of the state intelligence agency, Muchdi Purwopranjono.
Judges said the motive was to stop Munir from criticising the government and the military, and urged authorities to continue the probe.
A government-sanctioned team that investigated Munir's death said it had evidence that Priyanto had frequent telephone contact with members of the intelligence agency before and after the murder.
Tempo No. 16/VI Dec 20 - 26, 2005
Jail for Law-Breakers
The trial of Pollycarpus gives the impression that the investigation into Munir's murder is incomplete. The DPR needs to use its right of inquiry on the issue.
INVESTIGATIONS into crimes involving senior officials in government institutions often come up against serious obstacles. This is why the law regulating government procedures provides members of the House of Representatives (DPR) with the right to instigate an inquiry. This is what DPR members can do when prosecution lacks the resolve to charge senior state officials suspected of involvement in some crime.
Now is perhaps the time to use this authority to ensure the Munir case is investigated thoroughly. This is because only Pollycarpus has been put on trial despite the results of the fact-finding team set up by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono which found strong indications of State Intelligence Agency (BIN) officials' involvement in the murder. Even if the murder was carried out in a private capacity, there is a definite impression that BIN, as an institution, is obstructing the process of justice.
Unfortunately, the uncooperative stance of several BIN officials has failed to prod investigators into action. In a normal country, investigators can use criminal laws against officials suspected of trying to cover up a crime. And in some cases, officials have spent more time in jail, not because of the main crime, but because of their involvement in moves to cover up the crime. In the Munir case, law enforcers should do this in order to force officials to speak out.
There is still a chance of doing this. Prosecutors, for example, could subpoena officials whose statements are needed to testify under oath. This testimony, if it seems to make no sense, could then be investigated further. If the testimony turned out to be false, the officials could be detained for violating Article 242 of the Criminal Code, with a maximum sentence of seven years in jail. The judges also have the right to summon the necessary witnesses. Unfortunately this authority is not being used.
Admittedly there are other legal measures required, although they are not available in Indonesia. Punishment for obstruction of justice is not laid down by law in this nation, but there is clearly an urgent need for such a law. We hope that the DPR can add this article to the draft of the new Criminal Code.
Meanwhile, if law enforcers want to be seen to act quickly in the Munir murder case, the DPR should immediately use its right to initiate an inquiry. Apart from upholding the law, it will hopefully push bureaucrats into thinking twice before covering up for their colleagues' crimes. We hope that with this, the murder of Munir will never be repeated by our state officials.
International Herald Tribune December 19, 2005
A Widow Puts Indonesian Justice on Trial
By Joyce Hor-Chung Lau International Herald Tribune
HONG KONG Suciwati Munir looks every inch the modern, media-savvy campaigner, flying from country to country with her bags of matching red-and-black banners, buttons, T-shirts, pens and postcards.
But she is not running for office, nor is she selling anything - except for a message the Indonesian government may well prefer to keep quiet.
Behind the public figure is the private woman - the grieving 37-year-old widow of Munir Said Thalib, a human rights activist who was poisoned last year on a Garuda Indonesia flight to Amsterdam, where he was going to study international law.
A petite, energetic woman, Suciwati has recently traveled to Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea, addressing overseas journalists and others to pressure Jakarta to tell the full story on its investigation of her husband's death.
Now, a verdict is expected this week in the murder trial of the main suspect in her husband's death, a pilot named Pollycarpus Budhari Priyanto. The trial came to a close last week.
It has been a lengthy journey for Suciwati. Over the past year, she has repeated the same sound-bites about justice and transparency in countless interviews and news conferences; on the U.S. television show "Dateline," and before the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva and the European Union in Brussels.
Suciwati's intent has been to build international awareness of her husband's case before a verdict is handed down. She has also helped turn her late husband's case into a litmus test of Indonesia's ability, under the government of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, to face a sometimes gruesome past and establish a credible judicial system.
"The Munir case," said Indria Fernida of Kontras, an advocacy group Munir founded, "is a key indicator of whether other past human rights cases will be solved, and an indicator of what the future of rule of law will be in Indonesia."
In her public appearances, Suciwati wears a T-shirt that asks, "Who is the mastermind?" - a reference to her belief that either the government, the police or both were involved in her husband's death. Human rights activists, sharing Suciwati's view, say the outcome of the Pollycarpus trial will be irrelevant without a more thorough inquiry into the case.
Government officials did not respond to facsimile messages and telephone calls requesting comment on the Munir case and on allegations that the Indonesian government was involved in the death.
According to a court indictment, Pollycarpus, who was off duty at the time, offered his business class seat to Munir, who was sitting in economy. They switched seats and, soon after, Munir began suffering from diarrhea and acute vomiting.
He was found dead in his seat when the plane landed. In an investigation held in the Netherlands, the national forensic institute found 465 milligrams of arsenic in Munir's stomach - more than twice what is accepted as a lethal dose. It is alleged that the poison was dropped in his orange juice.
Munir's death came a month before Yudhoyono, who has been credited with a more liberal rule than his predecessors, took power in October 2004.
And it is because Yudhoyono has been expected to introduce a new degree of transparency to Indonesia, after decades of military rule, that the trial has attracted unusual international attention. Some activists say it will affect the way the outside world views this relatively new leader.
"The Munir case is a lightning rod which will show us how serious Indonea's government is in protecting human rights," said Bruce Van Voorhis, communications officer of the Hong Kong-based Asian Human Rights Commission, a nongovernmental group.
The irony of Munir's case is that he was best known for founding Kontras, a group that worked to solve cases of violence against human rights activists, before he became a victim himself.
According to Suciwati, there was a lack of transparency in Munir's case.
"We didn't have good information," she said. "We didn't hear initially from Garuda or the government."
Suciwati began pressing for an investigation and met with Yudhoyono on Nov. 24, 2004. An official fact-finding team was formed in January 2005.
The fact-finding team found records of 35 telephone calls between Pollycarpus and an intelligence official who had been the subject of a Kontras investigation. But the team said their work was stopped when the state intelligence agency failed to respond to requests for documents before the fact-finding team's mandate ended in June.
Charged in the case were Pollycarpus and two crew members - but no government officials. Repeated requests from Suciwati and various nongovernment organizations for the fact-finding team to release more of its findings have been met with silence.
Suciwati's considers this the main flaw in the prosecution's case.
"The way is not to just charge Pollycarpus, but to investigate the case more broadly," she said.
"The police in the fact-finding team are afraid to make an investigation because the people behind the case may be their superiors," she said. "The system is corrupt on all levels. Everyone is connected to each other."
Fernida, the Kontras member, said that while Indonesia has a human rights court, it is ineffective. "Almost all perpetrators are acquitted," she said.
"There are still thousands who are still seeking justice," Fernida added, referring specifically to a massacre in 1965, riots in 1998 and political violence during the era of General Suharto, who ruled from 1965 to 1998. "These victims get hopeless because the rule of law is not changing," she said.
Van Voorhis of the Asian Human Rights Commission says change must start with legal system reform. "You cannot have human rights protections if the police, prosecutors and judges are corrupt, ineffective, incompetent or open to political influence or intimidation."
When Suciwati met Munir in 1991, she was a teacher in Surabaya, in an area with many factory workers. At one point, she worked in a factory herself to see what conditions were like.
"And that's when I met Munir, because he worked at a legal aid clinic," she said. They married five years later.
"Even before we were married, I knew Munir had received threats in Surabaya," Suciwati said. "There were bomb threats, threatening letters, attacks on the office, threats against our family and negative propaganda against him in the news.
"We had to tell ourselves that the threats were no big deal," she said. "We had chosen to live as human rights activists. If you fear, it should be for other people, not yourself, because that only gets in the way of your rationale and intelligence."
This year, Suciwati founded JSKK, an acronym for the Victims' Families Solidarity Network. And, she says, she still receives death threats, including one since her husband's death that was attached to a dead chicken. The message read, "Do you want to end up like this?"