Civil society alliance demands immediate release of Papua activist Victor Yeimo

CNN Indonesia – May 18, 2021
Victor Yeimo (right) giving a press conference outside Abepura prison after his release in 2014 (freewestpapua)

Jakarta – The Papua Legal Aid Foundation (LBH) along with 30 other civil society organisations is urging the police to unconditionally release West Papua National Committee (KNPB) spokesperson Victor Yeimo following his arrest in Jayapura on Sunday May 9.

"We call for the immediate and unconditional release of Victor Yeimo", read an official press release from the alliance on Tuesday May 18.

The alliance said that Yeimo is being criminalised based simply on the political motives of the government. Moreover the government has failed to resolve the roots of the Papua conflict. According to the coalition one indication of this is its failure to investigate and deal with racism towards the Papuan people.

"Both [racism] committed by government officials as well as other intolerant people", read the release.

Not only that, the civil society alliance also believes that the government has made an error in blaming Yeimo and other Papua political activists for the riots and violence which broke out in several Papuan cities following the alleged racist incident in Surabaya, East Java, in August 2019.

"It is not just an error, but also counterproductive in reducing political tension in the land of Papua", said the alliance.

The alliance also believes that the criminalisation of Yeimo using the makar (treason, subversion, rebellion) articles smacks of repression. They believe that this violates freedom of expression and will become a huge obstacle to the peaceful resolution of the problems in Papua which have been worsening of late.

"The Indonesian government has a human rights obligation differentiate between the threat of violence from armed pro-independence groups, which can be responded to by law enforcement, and peaceful political expression which is protected by the norms and standards of international human rights laws", they wrote in the statement.

Yeimo was arrested by police for alleged crimes against state security and or makar and or broadcasting a report and releasing information which could give rise to public unrest.

He has also been charged with insulting the Indonesian flag, language, state symbols and national anthem and incitement to violence. Yeimo was a fugitive from the law and had been included on the police's wanted persons list (DPO) since 2019.

Nemangkawi Taskforce head Senior Commissioner Iqbal Alqudusy earlier confirmed that Yeimo was arrested on May 9, 2021.

According to Alqudusy, Yeimo has been declared a suspect for being the actor behind the riots in Papua in 2019 based on witness testimony which cited Yeimo as the leader of a demonstration and for giving a speech on Papuan independence which was deemed provocative and resulted in damage to public facilities. (rzr/nma)

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Aliansi Masyarakat Sipil Desak Polisi Bebaskan Victor Yeimo".]