Munir Thalib – Human Rights Profile

By: Nikita Lourenço Calling,

“Human rights in the sense of human solidarity have created a new universal and equal language going beyond racial, gender, ethnic or religious boundaries. That is why we consider it a doorway to dialogue for people of all socio-cultural groups and all ideologies”*

Mr Munir Said Thalib, was an Indonesian Human rights activist. He’s been awarded a number of international awards recognizing his important work, including the Right Livelihood Award in 2000.

He was one of Indonesia’s most leading human rights and anti-corruption activists. He had a lengthy history of involvement in human rights issues. Munir began his career as a legal aid worker in Surabaya in 1989, under the former Indonesian President Suharto’s oppressive and dictatorial “New Order.” He later rose to the position of director of the Semarang Legal Aid Office, and in 1996, he accepted the position of chief of field operations for the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI), which was based in Jakarta.

Munir was crucial in bringing attention to rights abuses in the latter months of the Suharto dictatorship.

In 1998, Munir founded his own human rights organization Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (KontraS). It was founded purposely to investigate the kidnapping of numerous activists during the latter years of President Suharto’s dictatorial regime, from 1997 to 1999. Today, KontraS keeps up its efforts to prevent political violence, promote peace and respect for the rule of law, maintain the physical and mental health of victims, and provide victims’ reparation.

Arsenic poisonin

In 2004, Munir was on a flight from Jakarta to Amsterdam to pursue his master’s in Human rights law at Utrecht University. However, he was found murdered on the flight from Jakarta to Amsterdam. The Dutch authorities performed an autopsy on him and found he had been poisoned with arsenic. He died two hours prior to landing in Amsterdam. Prior to his death, he had been subject to several attacks because of his work defending human rights. In both 2002 and 2003, an unknown attacker broke into his office. Additionally, in 2003, a bomb exploded outside his home.

It has been 19 years since the killing of Munir Thalib. Pollycarpus Budihari Priyanto was sentenced to 20 years in prison for the murder, he was released early due to lack of evidence.

*Part of acceptance speech made during the Right Livelihood Award. Read it here:

Read another one of our articles on our Human Rights Profiles: 

Right Livelihood Laureates 2022: Fartuun Adan and Ilwad Elman:

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