Responding to reports that West Papuan National Committee activist Victor Yeimo’s health has deteriorated in detention, Amnesty International Indonesia Deputy Director Wirya Adiwena said today:
“Victor Yeimo was detained under treason charges merely for peacefully expressing his political opinions, a violation of both international human rights law and standards as well as Indonesia’s own constitution. He should never have been detained and his worsening health conditions only make it even more imperative that he is released immediately.”
“Indonesian authorities have repeatedly used treason provisions in the Criminal Code to prosecute peaceful protesters. We call on the Indonesian government to free Victor Yeimo and all others who have been detained merely for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression.”
“We also reiterate our call that the government and the House of Representatives repeal or substantially amend Articles 106 and 110 of Indonesia’s Criminal Code, ensuring that these provisions can no longer be used to criminalize freedom of expression beyond permissible limitations in accordance with international human rights law and standards.”
On 9 May 2021, Satgas Nemangkawi special unit arrested Victor Yeimo, a spokesman for the West Papua National Committee (Komite Nasional Papua Barat, KNPB) in Jayapura, the capital of Papua province. Police charged him with treason for a 2019 statement, made during anti-racism protests, calling for a referendum on independence. He is now being detained at the Police’s Mobile Brigade Headquarters (Mako Brimob) in Abepura.
According to a medical examination report dated August 20, 2021 that Amnesty International Indonesia received from Yeimo’s legal team, Yeimo has been diagnosed with empyema of the gallbladder, tuberculosis, hypocalcemia, and leukocytosis. He also has a history of gastric and lung disease.
Yeimo has been accused of violating the Indonesian Criminal Code (KUHP), namely Article 106 on treason, Article 110 of the KUHP on treason with conspiracy.
The Indonesian authorities have used these criminal code provisions to prosecute dozens of peaceful pro-independence political activists in Papua who were legitimately exercising their rights to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly.
According to Amnesty International Indonesia data as of December 2020, at least 77 people have been imprisoned under Articles 106 and 110 of the KUHP, and as of July 2021, at least 13 Papuan prisoners of conscience have been imprisoned under the same articles on treason.
The right to freedom of expression is guaranteed in Article 19 of the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which is further explained in the General Comment No. 34 on Article 19 of the ICCPR. It should be underlined that Indonesia has ratified the ICCPR through Law No. 12 of 2005, which also means that Indonesia has a binding obligation to respect, protect and fulfil the right.
Amnesty International Indonesia does not take any position on the political status of any province or region in Indonesia, or any other state, including calls for independence. However, peaceful political expression and aspiration are part of the right to freedom of expression, which should be guaranteed for all regardless of their political views.