Carmel Budiardjo. Credit: Right Livelihood

Carmel Budiardjo, campaigner for human rights in Indonesia, passed away at 96

News 12.07.2021

Right Livelihood Laureate Carmel Budiardjo was a fervent advocate for human rights in Indonesia. She campaigned for the release of political prisoners and sought accountability for the crimes committed by the government of former Indonesian President Suharto. Budiardjo died in London on Saturday, July 10, at the age of 96.

A British citizen married to an Indonesian government official, Budiardjo paid a high personal price for opposing Suharto. After enduring 3 years in prison in Indonesia for her activism, she was exiled to the UK. However, she soon founded the organisation TAPOL and continued her fight for human rights even from afar.

“Carmel Budiardjo stood up for justice in Indonesia and never relented, even in the face of intimidation, imprisonment and exile. Continuing to fight against political oppression, she showed what determination and a passion for human rights can achieve. I am humbled by Budiardjo’s example and send my deepest condolences to her family and colleagues at TAPOL,” said Ole von Uexkull, Right Livelihood’s Executive Director.

Born in 1925, she completed her studies in London and moved to Indonesia in 1951 after marrying an Indonesian official.

Budiardjo’s husband was imprisoned for “political offences” after Suharto seized power in the 1960s and spent 12 years in prison without trial. She herself was detained for 3 years without trial or charges before being forced to leave Indonesia in 1971.

Soon after arriving back in the UK, Budiardjo founded TAPOL to continue her fight.

TAPOL, whose name comes from the contraction of two Indonesian words translating to “political prisoner,” initially campaigned for the release of hundreds of thousands of detainees – mostly jailed without trial – who had been held as communist suspects after an anti-communist crackdown in 1965.

Soon, the organisation’s work also broadened to campaigning against economic aid and arms exports to Indonesia, as well as human rights abuses such as press censorship.

“It is my fervent wish that future generations uphold the principles of political freedoms, peace and anti-militarism,” Budiardjo told Right Livelihood in 2020 in an interview to mark her 95th birthday.

Today, TAPOL continues the work Budiardjo started advocating for the release of political prisoners, especially in West Papua, who have been arrested and imprisoned by the Indonesian government. 

The organisation also works closely with human rights defenders in West Papua and Indonesia and the wider international human rights community.

Budiardjo received the Right Livelihood Award in 1995 “for holding the Indonesian government accountable for its actions and upholding the universality of fundamental human rights.”

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