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(New York) - Human Rights Watch today mourns the death of Munir, one of Indonesia’s most prominent human rights advocates. The 38-year-old lawyer died unexpectedly yesterday while en route from Indonesia to the Netherlands to pursue graduate studies.

Munir, best known as a founder and director of the highly effective Commission for “Disappeared” Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras), was most recently the director of the Jakarta-based human rights group Imparsial.

“Munir was in a class by himself,” said Human Rights Watch deputy program director Joe Saunders. “He had an electric intelligence and an encyclopedic memory. In meetings, he was able to draw on a kaleidoscope of detailed fact and sharp analytical insight to present a clear image of what needed to be done.”

Munir’s legal aid career began in Surabaya in 1989 and included stints as director of the Semarang Legal Aid office and as chief of field operations for the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI) in Jakarta. He represented many human rights victims and activists in high profile cases, and regularly spoke out for justice in the face of intimidation, including death threats. His work encompassed the full range of human rights concerns in Indonesia, from abuses by the Indonesian military and police, to attacks on labor activists, to impunity for human rights crimes in Aceh, East Timor and Papua (Irian Jaya) to the rights of the Chinese ethnic minority.

Munir was the winner of numerous honors, including being named Man of the Year in 1998 by a leading Indonesian Muslim periodical UMMAT and a “young leader for the Millenium” by Asia Week in 2000. Also in 2000, he was one of the winners of “The Right Livelihood Award,” known as the “Alternative Nobel Prize,” for “his courage and dedication in fighting for human rights and the civilian control of the military in Indonesia.”

“It’s a great personal loss because he was a friend and colleague,” said Saunders. “It’s a tremendous loss for the human rights movement because he was a tireless and uniquely effective researcher, strategist, and spokesperson. Our condolences go out to his family and colleagues.”

Human rights in the sense of human solidarity has 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 socioeconomic groups and all ideologies. - Munir

A fund has been established to pay the costs of Munir's funeral and to establish a trust fund for his children. The family has requested that donations be wired to:

Yayasan INFID
Citibank cabang Melawai
Account: 800-2208-258

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