Amnesty calls for release of Papua rights activists Victor Yeimo

Kompas – May 9, 2023
Victor Yeimo (right) and lawyer Emanuel Gobay outside Jayapura District Court – January 31, 2023 (Jubi)

Singgih Wiryono, Jakarta – Amnesty International Indonesia Executive Director Usman Hamid is urging the Indonesian government to unconditionally release Papuan political activist Victor Yeimo, who was sentenced to eight months in prison on May 5 for to his involvement in anti-racism protest in Papua in August 2019.

And not just Yeimo. Hamid hopes that all Papuan political activists that are currently being detained or in prison can be released.

"We urge the state to release Victor Yeimo and other activists who have been imprisoned just for peacefully expressing themselves in Papua. Because all of them are protected by the Constitution", said Hamid in a written statement on Monday May 8.

According to Hamid, the sentencing of Papuan activists to prison terms only gives rise to the perception that the state is no longer friendly to free expression by Papuan activists.

Moreover, these Papua activists express themselves in a peaceful manner. "Even though the state already has a commitment to respect this", said Hamid.

He also said that in Papua there has been a pattern of violence that has been going on for a long time against those who practice freedom of expression and the fulfillment of human rights.

"The sentence against Victor Yeimo today is just one example of the lack of human rights guarantees", said Hamid.

Because of this, he hopes that the government will no longer use the articles on makar (treason, subversion, rebellion) and insulting the government in the Criminal Code (KUHP) to punish activists.

Based on monitoring by Amnesty International from 2019 to 2022, at least 78 people in Papua including Yeimo have been arrested on charges of treason using Articles 106 and 110 of the old KUHP.

Under national law, the right to freedom of opinion, assembly and association are also guaranteed in the 1945 Constitution, specifically Article 28E Paragraph (3).

Article 23 of Law Number 39/1999 on Human Rights also guarantees that everyone is free to have their own political beliefs and to express opinions according to their conscience.

The right to freedom of expression, including political expression, is also guaranteed under Article 19 of the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which is elaborated upon in General Comment Number 34 regarding Article 19 of the ICCPR.

Indonesia has already ratified the ICCPR through Law Number 12/2005, which means that Indonesia has a binding obligation to respect, protect and fulfill these rights.

"Amnesty International does not take a position on the political status of any province in Indonesia, including calls for their independence. However, in our opinion, freedom of expression includes the right to peacefully express one's views or political solutions", concluded Hamid.

[Translated by James Balowski. The original article titled "Amnesty Internasional Desak Aktivis Politik Papua Viktor Yeimo Dibebaskan Tanpa Syarat" spelt Victor Yeimo as Viktor Yeimo.]