Indonesian authorities must immediately and unconditionally release Papuans and those detained solely for their peaceful expressions, said Amnesty International Indonesia and Amnesty International USA following the guilty verdict and prison sentence against West Papua National Committee (KNPB) spokesperson, Victor Yeimo, in Jayapura.
On Friday May 5, Yeimo was sentenced to eight months imprisonment due to his involvement in anti-racism protest in Papua on August 2019.
“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,” said the Amnesty International Indonesia Executive Director Usman Hamid.
“At the same time, unfair trials are underway. In 2007, the Constitutional Court had revoked Article 155 of the Penal Code and today, the same article is being used against peaceful activists such as Viktor Yeimo. Is the law enforcement moving backward?”
The Jayapura District Court’s Panel of Judges convicted Yeimo of violating Article 155 of the Penal Code related to broadcasting or showing letters or pictures that contain expressions of feelings of hostility, hatred, contempt or humiliation against the government.
Previously, the Public Prosecutor charged Yeimo with Article 106 concerning treason, Article 110 Paragraph 1 concerning conspiracy to treason, Article 110 Paragraph 2 on preparing for treason, and Article 160 on sedition.
“What’s been happening to Yeimo and other Papuan activists who spoke up is a form of arbitrariness, misdirection and discrimination,” added Usman.
“It will also send a message to other activists and protesters that dissent and peaceful expression of their views are not welcome.”
According to Amnesty International Indonesia’s monitoring data from 2019 to 2022, at least 78 people in Papua were facing criminal allegation and prosecution for allegedly violating treason articles under the Penal Code.
“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,” said Carolyn Nash, Asia Advocacy Director at Amnesty USA. “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.”
“As part of Indonesia’s Universal Periodic Review earlier this year, the US raised specific concern with laws that unduly restrict freedom of association, peaceful assembly and expression,” Nash said. “With Yeimo’s conviction, we are seeing the human rights harms of these laws in action. It is not enough for the US government to object in theory to abusive laws. The US must demonstrate the seriousness of their UPR recommendations by making specific calls for Yeimo’s and other activists’ immediate, unconditional release and for the protection of civil society across Indonesia.”
Amnesty International does not take on any position regarding political status within Indonesia, including calls for independence. However, the organization believes that the right to freedom of expression includes the right to peacefully advocate for independence referenda, or other political positions.
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