Muchtar Pakpahan, leading Indonesian political prisoner, is released from prison


The International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development welcomes the release, earlier this week, of Muchtar Pakpahan, a leading Indonesian political prisoner.

Montreal, May 27, 1998 The International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development welcomes the release, earlier this week, of Muchtar Pakpahan, a leading Indonesian political prisoner.

Mr. Pakpahan, leader of the Indonesian Prosperous Workers Union (Serikat Buruh Sejatera Indonesia – SBSI) who was serving a four-year jail sentence for inciting riots in Medan in 1994 and was facing death penalty under the country’s anti-subversion law was released from Cipinang Prison on May 25, 1998 (Jakarta time) along with Sri Bintang Pamungkas, a former parliamentarian and head of the United Indonesian Democratic Party (PUDI).

“The release of Muchtar Pakpahan demonstrates that international public pressure is effective in the fight for human rights. We should never give up,” said Warren Allmand, president of the ICHRDD in a statement.

In the past two years, ICHRDD, along with many others, has been leading an international campaign for the release of Muchtar Pakpahan and the legal registration of his union, the SBSI. These groups include: Amnesty International, Canada; the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) and its affiliates; the Netherlands-based National Federation of Christian Trade Unions (CNV); Conf?d?ration g?n?rale du travail (CGT), France; the Federation Dutch Labour Union (FNV); International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU), Belgium; and the World Confederation of Labour (WCL).

When the minister of Justice announced the release the two key political prisoners, they initially refused to leave the prison demanding that all political prisoners be released. They left only after delivering speeches to their supporters from the prison’s balcony.

Mr. Allmand said the resignation of President Suharto and the release of the union leader and former parliamentarian are important steps toward positive political reforms in Indonesia. However, President B.J. Habibie must demonstrate that he has the will and capacity to bring about fundamental political reforms. These reforms must include, the immediate release of all political prisoners and the repeal of all laws and regulations which curb dissent and prevent the formation of legitimate political institutions, free trade unions and other democratic organizations.

?It is imperative that the new government of B.J. Habibie set a clear timetable and establish procedures for free and fair elections,” said Mr. Allmand.

He urged the Canadian Government to re-examine the bilateral aid package and to make it contingent on fundamental political reforms, while supporting the suspension of financial aid assistance through the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. However, humanitarian aid must continue and should be channelled through NGOs.

The International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development is an independent and non-partisan Canadian institution with an international mandate working with citizens and governments around the world to promote human rights and democratic development through dialogue, strategic interventions, advocacy and public education.