Papua’s Victor Yeimo must be set free immediately, says Wenda

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Papuan leader Victor Yeimo
Detained Papuan leader Victor Yeimo ... "clear victim" of Indonesian racism and his health is deteriorating. Image: Foreign Correspondent

Asia Pacific Report newsdesk

The United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) has called on Indonesian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Papuan leader Victor Yeimo from custody.

Benny Wenda, interim president of the ULMWP, said Yeimo was a “clear victim” of Indonesian racism and his health was deteriorating under captivity.

Yeimo, spokesperson for the West Papua National Committee (KNPB), has been detained for three months on charges of makar, alleged treason.

“Victor Yeimo is now facing possible life imprisonment for “treason”. Why? Simply for being accused of peacefully protesting against racism towards West Papuans,” Wenda said in a statement.

“Victor Yeimo is himself a clear example of what it means to be a victim of the deep-seated racism we West Papuans endure under Indonesian colonialism.”

The UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, Mary Lawlor had raised particular concerns about Yeimo’s deteriorating health in prison, stating on Twitter, “I’m concerned because his pre-existing health conditions put him at grave risk of #COVID19.”

Amnesty International was calling for Yeimo’s immediate and unconditional release from jail and was running a letter writing campaign encouraging people to support this call.

Similar to ‘Balikpapan 7’ case
“Victor Yeimo’s situation is highly similar to the plight of the ‘Balikpapan 7’, West Papuan political prisoners who were also arrested and jailed in 2020 for the same anti-racist protests of the 2019 West Papua Uprising.

“They were finally released following a huge national and international solidarity campaign.

“Their suffering and struggle should have proved to Indonesia and to the world, we do not need any more political prisoners in West Papua.

“I also condemn all Indonesian state violence towards the people of West Papua which has been perpetrated by the Indonesian security forces in recent days.”

During last weekend’s demonstrations for the right of self-determination and for Victor Yeimo’s release, “many people were arrested and tortured and one person in Yahukimo was shot by the Indonesian police“.

In Jayapura, several people were brutally beaten by the Indonesian police, including KNPB chairman Agus Kossay.

People were also arrested in other cities, including Indonesians “standing in solidarity with us West Papuans”.

“There must be justice following these human rights violations,” Wenda said.

He called on Indonesian authorities to immediately release all those detained from custody.

On August 16, police harassed and blocked West Papuan church leader and peacemaker Rev Dr Benny Giay from entering the local Parliament where he had wanted to pray, Wenda said.

“Who are the peacemakers in West Papua? Certainly not the Indonesian police, who have no respect for those actively building peace,” he said.

“This is a disgraceful incident and the Indonesian police should be deeply ashamed.”

Wenda said the Indonesian government had shown it had no respect for the human rights of the West Papuan people.

The only solution for West Papua was a peaceful one of self-determination.

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