Update on prosecution of Victor Yeimo – TAPOL reports case to UN Special Procedures

The London-based human rights organisation TAPOL has reported the arrest of Victor Yeimo, the international spokesperson of the West Papua National Committee (KNPB), to the Special Procedures of the UN Human Rights Council. Yeimo was arrested on 9 May 2021 and is currently detained at the Police Mobile Brigade (Brimob) headquarters in Jayapura, Papua Province. The police believe Victor Yeimo played a significant role in organising and leading protests against the racial discrimination of ethnic Papuans and for self-determination in 23 towns across West Papua and 17 cities in Indonesia between 19 August and 30 September 2019.

Human rights observers assume that the police and public prosecutor will use multiple criminal charges to silence Victor Yeimo for speaking about human rights violations and the humanitarian crisis in West Papua in relation to ongoing security force operations in the central highlands at the United Nations in March 2019. He also played a significant role in forming a petition against the prolongation of Papua’s special autonomy status. Indonesia has restricted the access for foreign journalists and international observers to West Papua, as human rights violations and demands for political self-determination are highly sensitive issues for the Indonesian Government.

Victor Yeimo’s lawyers expressed concerns regarding multiple procedural violations during arrest and detention. They received arrest and detention warrants only one day after the arrest. In contrast, the Indonesian Criminal Procedure Code (KUHAP) requires the police to present the warrants at the time of the arrest. Moreover, Victor Yeimo suffers from health problems, requiring him to take medicines three times a day. His health condition also makes him more vulnerable to a severe course of a COVID-19 infection, as Victor Yeimo has not been vaccinated against the virus yet.  However, he has not been allowed to contact his doctor as regulated under Article 58 KUHAP.    

Due 13 May 2021, Victor Yeimo was twice interrogated without lawyers being present (see photo, source: Jubi). According to his legal attorney, he is detained in an isolation cell with limited air circulation and no daylight – his relatives are not allowed to visit him during detention. Since his transfer to the Brimob headquarters, lawyers can only meet Victor Yeimo after getting permission from the criminal investigator at the Papua Regional Police. Lawyers argue that the operational procedure at the Brimob headquarter hampers the provision of legal aid as guaranteed under international human rights treaties and the KUHAP.  Neither the lawyers nor relatives were informed aforehand of the transfer.