The Central Information Commission (KIP) ended the state’s 12-year silence on the murder of prominent human rights defender Munir Said Thalib on Monday by ordering the government to officially disclose the report of a fact-finding team’s investigation into the case.
The KIP stipulated that the team’s investigation, which had been submitted to the government in 2005, was public information. Thus, the government was obliged to disclose the findings to the public, as well as explain why the report has been for years kept a secret.
The KIP specifically delivered its ruling to the State Secretariat as it was in charge of the government’s administrative paperwork including any documents sent to the president.
“The State Secretariat must disclose all requested information through any means of communication it utilizes, either electronically or non-electronically,” KIP commissioner Evy Trisulo Dianasari said when reading out the ruling.
Monday’s ruling was made in response to a public information request jointly filed by Munir’s widow Suciwati, the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) and the Jakarta Legal Aid Institute (LBH Jakarta) in April.
They filed the request against the State Secretariat after the latter claimed a lack of knowledge of the report’s whereabouts. As well, a follow-up request was made to President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo earlier this year.
The KIP ruled the claim baseless. When reading the verdict, Evy emphasized that although the country had seen a change of president and institutional transfers of power since the fact-finding team submitted its investigation report to then president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in 2005, the structure of the State Secretariat as an institution had remained unchanged.
”All documents must have stayed at the State Secretariat because no significant changes had happened within the institution,” declared Evy.
Headed by Marsudi Hanafi, the fact-finding team consisting of human rights activists Hendardi of the Setara Institute and former Kontras coordinator Usman Hamid, lawyers, as well as police officers, was set up immediately after the outspoken human rights defender was murdered in September 2004.
Munir died from arsenic poisoning during a Garuda Indonesia flight to the Netherlands.
A South Jakarta Court found Garuda Indonesia pilot Pollycarpus Budihari Priyanto and former Garuda president Indra Setiawan guilty of Munir’s murder. Pollycarpus was sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment while Indra got 12 years.
Besides the two, former State Intelligence Agency (BIN) deputy head Muchdi Purwoprandjono was also accused of being involved. However, he was acquitted of all charges in 2011.
The fact-finding team had identified the alleged role of Muchdi’s then boss, Abdullah Mahmud Hendropriyono, in the case as the team discovered telephone calls from Hendropriyono to Pollycarpus close to the day of the incident.
Leaked US diplomatic cables, previously released by WikiLeaks, also alleged that Hendropriyono had chaired two meetings that planned Munir’s assassination.
Despite the investigation, Munir’s murder remains a mystery, stirring speculation of the alleged involvement of high-profile government figures in the rights advocate’s death.
Munir was known for his bravery as he had taken up the cause of dozens of activists who were abducted during the last months of then president Soeharto’s New Order regime in 1998. He was also outspoken on human rights abuses by the military in Aceh and Timor Leste. He specifically drew the attention to Hendropriyono’s role in a military crackdown on protesters in Talangsari, Lampung, in 1989 that claimed the lives of 45 people. The National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) had previously declared the incident a gross human rights violation.
Hendropriyono has repeatedly denied any role in Munir’s death.