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Indonesia; Malaysia: Protests over Deaths of Migrant Workers

(May 2, 2012) On April 26, 2012, several Indonesian officials made a formal protest to Malaysia over the shooting deaths of three Indonesian migrant workers in Malaysia in late March. This followed a request by Muhaimin Iskandar, the Minister of Manpower and Transmigration, who asked Indonesia's foreign minister to pursue the matter through diplomatic channels. (Malaysian Home Affairs Minister Pledges Investigation of Missing TKI Organs, KOMPAS (Apr. 27, 2012), World News Connection online subscription database, Doc. No. 201204271477.1_1b6e014abcaa7b60.) On the same day, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) announced it was sending a team to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to look into the matter. On the team were a ministerial specialist on institutional relations, the Director of Legal Affairs, and an official from the Directorate of Protection of Indonesian Citizens and Legal Entities (of the MFA). The mission was designed to obtain comprehensive information and to demonstrate the Ministry's “concern and sympathy to the family of the victims.” (The Ministry to Send Special Team to Malaysia, Republic of Indonesia MFA website (Apr. 24, 2012).)

Initially it was believed that organs might have been stolen from the bodies of the three workers. Additional statements on the issue came from Wahyu Susilo, a policy analyst specializing in issues related to migrant labor, and Dewi Fortuna Anwar, vice presidential deputy secretary for political affairs. Speaking in Jakarta on April 26, Anwar noted that autopsies would be needed to determine whether organs were missing from the bodies. “If they are missing, this case must be completely solved … . This crime is in clear violation of ethics and law,” he added. Susilo asserted that murder and organ theft are common crimes committed against Indonesian migrant workers, but argued that the crimes are rarely brought to light as the victims' families do not have the bodies examined. (KOMPAS, supra.)

The incident that prompted the Indonesian protest took place on March 25, 2012, when three workers from the province of West Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia, were shot by Malaysian police when suspected of criminal activities. The three victims have now been autopsied by police forensic doctors from the victims' home province. Two autopsies took place on April 26; the third autopsy was done the next day. (Id.) The examinations revealed that organs had not been stolen from the bodies. According to Indonesia's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Marty Natalegwa, there was “no evidence that would support [speculation on] organ trafficking.” However, Natalegwa stressed that the investigation should continue into the circumstances of the deaths, to determine whether there was any misconduct on the part of the Malaysian police. (Rabby Pramudatama, Dead Migrant Workers' Organs Were Not Stolen: Foreign Minister, THE JAKARTA POST (May 1, 2012).)

On the Malaysian side, Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein, the Minister of Home Affairs, promised a police investigation and cooperation with the delegation being sent from Indonesia. (KOMPAS, supra.)

Wahidah Rustam, the Chairman of the Executive Board of the National Solidarity of Women in Jakarta, placed the case in the context of a history of migrant labor and human trafficking problems in the region and pointed out that although Indonesia has had a law on human trafficking for five years, enforcement has been inadequate. (Id.; Law No. 21/ 2007, Pemberantasan Tindak Pidana Perdagangan Orang [Elimination of the Crime of Human Trafficking], The Protection Project website (last visited Apr. 30, 2012).)