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Widodo takes flak over failure to resolve activist's killing

Despite pledging to provide justice for past abuses Indonesian president has yet to lift a finger, rights groups claim

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Widodo takes flak over failure to resolve activist's killing

Human right activists hold a poster of Munir Said Thalib in this September 2007 file photo, during a demonstration outside the national intelligence agency (BIN) office in Jakarta to mark the third death anniversary of the rights activist. (Photo by Ahmad Zamroni/AFP)

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Rights groups have criticized Indonesian President Joko Widodo over his failure to honor pledges to clear up longstanding mysteries surrounding the high-profile assassination of a leading rights activist and the disappearance of 13 others.

The criticism came as Indonesia marked the 13th anniversary on Sept. 6 of the assassination of human rights defender Munir Said Thalib.

The 38-year-old activist was poisoned with arsenic on board a Garuda Airlines flight from Jakarta to Amsterdam in 2004.

Suciwati, Thalibs’s wife told ucanews.com that she found Widodo’s reluctance to resolve the case, despite pledging to do so, puzzling.

"I and other activists will keep pushing him. It's his duty as president to settle this case," she said.

Three of the Garuda flight crewmembers were convicted in connection with the case but there are credible allegations that one or more people high up in the government at the time were the masterminds and that a cover up took place to prevent anyone being brought to justice.

One suspect was Muchdi Purwoprandjono, a former deputy director of the state intelligence agency. In 2008, he was acquitted of soliciting and assisting in Thalib’s assassination after a trial that was seen as flawed by human rights groups.

Two years later, the National Human Rights Commission also said there were flaws in the investigation, prosecution and trial of Purwoprandjono and recommended a new police investigation.

In a Sept. 6 joint statement, Amnesty International and other rights organizations called on Widodo "to take decisive and concrete action to ensure those responsible — including those at the highest levels — are brought to justice."

"As a first key step towards establishing the truth, President Widodo must release a 2005 report prepared by an official fact-finding team into Munir’s killing," they said.

Phelim Kine, deputy director of Human Rights Watch's Asia Division said Widodo "can end Suciwati’s long wait for justice by ordering the National Police to surrender any evidence withheld or overlooked" during the trial of Muchdi, as well as "investigate allegations of witness intimidation related to the dismissal of the charges against Muchdi in 2008."

"Failing to do so will only reinforce Indonesia’s culture of impunity," he said in a statement.


Missing activists

Widodo came under fire for failing to fulfill a 2015 pledge to solve missing persons cases, including those of 13 political activists who "disappeared" in 1997-1998, when former dictator, Suharto fell from power.

"They must be found, whether they are still alive or dead, it should be clarified," Widodo had said.

Wanna Yeti, a member of the Indonesian Association of Families of the Disappeared (Ikohi) criticized Widodo for failing to act on a promise to form an investigation team to resolve the case.

"He hasn't come close to doing so yet," she said

Yeti's father went missing in North Jakarta in 1984.

In response to the criticism, Ifdal Kasim from the Presidential Staff Office for Human Rights, said Widodo was still committed to resolving past human rights violations and results would be seen before his term in office ends.


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