He has recently (8 May 2013) been appointed as a member of the United Nations human rights investigation into North Korea, with Michael Kirby and Sonja Biserko.
Darusman was born in Bogor, West Java, in 1945. The son of Suryono Darusman, a diplomat, he spent much of his childhood in Europe; this later influenced his thoughts on social norms and equality, as Darusman found the class differences present in Indonesia disturbing. His brother, Chandra, went on to be a composer.
In 1965, after a period protesting then-president Sukarno, Darusman entered politics as a member of Golkar, which after the overthrow of Sukarno became the party of President Suharto. In 1974 he graduated from law school at Parahyangan Catholic University in Bandung. With Golkar, Darusman spent fifteen years as a member of the People's Representative Council, representing Bandung.
In 1994, Darusman was one of the first members of the National Commission on Human Rights. In 1998, after the fall of President Suharto in May, Darusman was a member of the Joint Fact Finding Team, which looked into the widespread rioting and pogroms before the president's resignation. Meanwhile, Darusman seized power within Golkar – torn between pro- and contra-Suharto factions – and reorganised the party. He subsequently convinced the party to support Muslim cleric Abdurrahman Wahid, of Nahdlatul Ulama, for president.
In November 1999 Darusman was chosen Attorney General of Indonesia, replacing acting Prosecutor General Ismudjoko; he had previously been considered for Foreign Minister, a post which ultimately went to Alwi Shihab. In the position, he worked to combat corruption; among those convicted for corruption while Darusman served were former Minister of Trade and Industry Bob Hasan and Bank of Indonesia governor Syahril Sabirin; he also limited Suharto's movements and brought corruption charges against the former president and several charities he ran. In criminal law, Darusman was instrumental in removing former Chief of the Armed Forces Wiranto from his cabinet position, later bringing Wiranto to trial for alleged human rights violations in East Timor and several military members to trial for issues in Aceh. During this time, he was the third most heavily guarded political figure in the country, behind President Wahid and Vice-President Megawati Sukarnoputri.
Darusman's term ended in June 2001, when he was replaced with former Minister of Law and Human Rights Baharuddin Lopa. The following month he was appointed Cabinet Secretary. From 2004 to 2009 Darusman served as a member of the People's Representative Council, representing Golkar.
In 2008, Darusman was called by Lynn Pascoe, an Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations, to participate in the United Nations inquiry into the assassination of former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto. He accepted, and the committee spent nine months investigating the incident through 2009. In June 2010, he was appointed to a three-person panel to write the Report of the Secretary-General's Panel of Experts on Accountability in Sri Lanka, which dealt with alleged war crimes during the Sri Lankan Civil War. The report, which found evidence of numerous war crimes and condemned both the Sri Lankan government and its Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission, was ill-received in Sri Lanka, leading Darusman to be burned in effigy and refused entry to the island nation.
In August 2010, Darusman became founding director of the Human Rights Resource Centre for ASEAN, a think tank at the University of Indonesia which involves several ASEAN countries. That same month he was appointed United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in North Korea. In 2011, Darusman described the country as "perhaps the only country today that does not recognize that non-cooperation with the human rights mechanism is not an option"; he believes that North Korea must give greater respect to human rights, while other nations must be willing to send humanitarian aid. A similar report, delivered in March 2012, led to North Korean delegate So Se-pyong walking out of a meeting, after which a "scuffle" broke out. The North Korean delegation decried the report as a "useless interpretation".
Marzuki Darusman is the Chairman and Founder of The Foundation for International Human Rights Reporting Standards (FIHRRST), an international association dedicated to the respect, protection and fulfilment of human rights. Darusman is joined by a group of internationally-respected human rights advocates (among others, Marzuki Usman, H.S. Dillon, Makarim Wibisono, James Kallman, Dradjad Hari Wibowo) to establish the organization, which develops and promotes standards by which adherence to human rights principles can be demonstrated.
Marzuki Darusman is a Member of the Global Leadership Foundation, an organization which works to support democratic leadership, prevent and resolve conflict through mediation and promote good governance in the form of democratic institutions, open markets, human rights and the rule of law. It does so by making available, discreetly and in confidence, the experience of former leaders to today’s national leaders. It is a not-for-profit organization composed of former heads of government, senior governmental and international organization officials who work closely with Heads of Government on governance-related issues of concern to them.Order of the Rising Sun, 2nd Class, Gold and Silver Star (2017)