Amnesty calls on Jakarta to free West Papuan activist Victor Yeimo

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West Papua National Committee international spokesperson Victor Yeimo
West Papua National Committee international spokesperson Victor Yeimo addressing a 2016 rally in Jayapura . . . sentenced to eight years in jail. Image: Tabloid Jubi/RNZ Pacific

Amnesty International is calling on Indonesia to release West Papua National Committee (KNPB) international spokesperson Victor Yeimo.

Yeimo was sentenced on Friday to eight months in prison for his involvement in an anti-racism protest in Papua in August 2019.

In a statement, Amnesty International is calling for the immediate and unconditional release of Yeimo and all Papuans imprisoned for peacefully expressing their political opinions.

Amnesty Indonesia executive director Usman Hamid said the arbitrary arrest and detention of Victor Yeimo and many other Papuans was discriminatory and constituted a failure of the Indonesian state to uphold and protect the democractic and human rights of its citizens.

“The fact that he and many Papuans have been arrested and detained for peacefully expressing their political opinion represents the state’s neglect on human rights protection,” he said.

Hamid said data collected between 2019 and 2022 indicates an alarming escalation in efforts to silence and intimidate Papuan activists in Indonesia with at least 78 people facing criminal charges and prosecution for allegedly violating treason articles under the Penal Code.

Carolyn Nash, Asia advocacy director at Amnesty USA, said human rights were under attack in the autonomous region.

‘Escalating efforts to silence Papuans’
“These escalating efforts to silence and intimidate Papuan activists should alarm the US government, which has repeatedly looked to Indonesia as a regional example of democratic norms commitment to human rights principles,” she said.

“But the reality is clear: these human rights principles are under attack.

“The treatment of Papuan activists is the measure by which the US can assess the Indonesian government’s commitment to protect free expression — and the Indonesian government is demonstrating how weak that commitment truly is.”

Previously, West Papua Action Aotearoa spokesperson Catherine Delahunty said Yeimo’s only crime had been to stand up against the abuse of West Papuan students in Indonesia.

In March, a West Papuan advocacy group claimed 20 Papuans who were fundraising for the victims of tropical cyclones in Vanuatu were arrested by Indonesian police in the provincial capital Jayapura.

This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.

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