Carmel Budiardjo. Credit: Ulrike Altekruse/ Right Livelihood

Carmel Budiardjo urges respect for political freedoms as she turns 95

News 18.06.2020

Carmel Budiardjo is no stranger to adversity: she spent three years as a political prisoner in Indonesia. However, she continued her fight against political oppression the moment she was released. As she turns 95 years old on Thursday, June 18, she calls on future generations to carry on her struggle for political freedoms.

Budiardjo received the 1995 Right Livelihood Award for her tireless campaign to hold the Indonesian government accountable for its actions and ensure respect for fundamental human rights.

“It is my fervent wish that future generations uphold the principles of political freedoms, peace and anti-militarism,” she said in a recent video message to the Right Livelihood Foundation.

A British citizen married to an Indonesian government official, Budiardjo has paid a high personal price for opposing the government of former Indonesian President Suharto.

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 without trial or charge, before being forced to leave the country in 1971.

“The day I was released from prison in Jakarta, after having been held for three years for having been falsely accused of ‘involvement’ in the murder of six army generals, I resolved to campaign relentlessly for the release of scores of women and girls who have faced the same false accusations as me,” Budiardjo said. “I set up the British campaign for the release of Indonesian political prisoners, TAPOL.”

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.

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

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

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