Carmel Budiardjo

Awarded 1995

UK

For holding the Indonesian government accountable for its actions and upholding the universality of fundamental human rights.

Carmel Budiardjo is a British human rights defender who has fought for the release of Indonesia’s political prisoners. Having lived in Indonesia since 1951, she paid a high personal price for opposing President Suharto’s dictatorial government. First imprisoned without a trial, she had to later leave the country and go into exile. Eventually, she founded TAPOL, an Indonesian human rights campaign, in London. TAPOL, which name comes from a contraction of two Indonesian words meaning “political prisoner,” has advocated for the release of such prisoners and also more broadly for human rights in Indonesia.

TAPOL’s initial purpose was to campaign for the release of hundreds of thousands of political prisoners, mostly jailed without trial, who had been held as communist suspects after an anti-communist crackdown in 1965. But it soon broadened its campaign to include students arrested in 1974 and 1978. In August 1975, TAPOL warned that an Indonesian invasion of East Timor would bring bloodshed and terror. The invasion, which brought both, occurred four months later.

Under Budiardjo’s leadership, TAPOL has campaigned against economic aid and arms exports to Indonesia, as well as human rights abuses such as press censorship. While Budiardjo is not active with the organisation anymore, TAPOL has continued its work speaking up for human rights in Indonesia, especially on the issue of West Papua.

We in TAPOL concentrate in particular on analysing Indonesian government policy and the shift in emphasis within the regime.

Carmel Budiardjo, 1995 Laureate

Carmel Budiardjo is a British citizen who gained a degree in economics from London University in 1946 and moved to Indonesia in 1951, after marrying an Indonesian government official. Her husband was imprisoned for "political offences" after President Suharto seized power in the 1960s and spent 12 years in prison without trial. She herself suffered 3 years in detention, without trial or charge, before being forced to leave the country in 1971.

In 1973, Budiardjo was at the centre of a group of activists in London who founded the Indonesian human rights campaign, TAPOL. She ran TAPOL for decades, with a small staff but with a wide network of volunteer supporters and readers of the TAPOL Bulletin, which was published every two months.

TAPOL's initial purpose was to campaign for the release of hundreds of thousands of political prisoners, mostly jailed without trial, who had been held as communist suspects after an anti-communist crackdown in 1965 (the word "tapol" is a contraction of two Indonesian words meaning "political prisoner"). But it soon broadened its campaign to include students arrested in 1974 and 1978. In August 1975, TAPOL warned that an Indonesian invasion of East Timor would bring bloodshed and terror. The invasion, which brought both, occurred four months later.

Under Budiardjo's leadership, TAPOL has campaigned against economic aid and arms exports to Indonesia, as well as human rights abuses such as press censorship. During the 1980s the TAPOL Bulletin published many detailed interviews with West Papuan resistance leaders, East Timorese victims of abuse and Indonesian human rights activists. It also started making representations on a variety of issues to UN human rights bodies. TAPOL has published several books including An Act of Genocide: Indonesia's Invasion of East Timor (1979), West Papua: The Obliteration of a People (1983), and Indonesia: Muslims on Trial (1984).

1995 was a symbolically important year for those working on Indonesian human rights issues, being the 50th anniversary of the country's independence, the 30th anniversary of Suharto's seizure of power and the 20th anniversary of the invasion of East Timor.

Since 2000, Budjardjo has become very much involved in campaigning against human rights violations in Aceh and for a peaceful solution to the conflict. For West Papua, she is supporting the exercise of the right to self-determination and exposing the fraudulent Act of Free Choice in West Papua in 1969.

Laureate news
Culture and Education