Update on trials against Papuan human rights activist Victor Yeimo – Public Prosecutor again hampers access to medical treatment

After more than three months of detention, the trial against Victor Yeimo was launched at the Jayapura district court on 24 August 2021. The international spokesperson of the West Papua National Committee (KNPB) was arrested on 9 May 2021 and charged with various criminal charges concerning a series of protests against racism in August and September 2019. The police and the public prosecutor have detained Victor Yeimo in an isolation cell at the Police Mobile Brigade (Brimob) headquarters in Jayapura.  His lawyers raised repeated concerns over multiple criminal procedure violations during the detention at the Brimob headquarters. They initiated a pre-trial against the Papuan police chief to challenge the legality of Victor Yeimo’s arrest and detention. The pre-trial began on 19 August 2021.

Pre-trial against Papuan police chief ongoing
Victor Yeimo’s lawyers argue that the police conducted various procedural violations during the arrest and detention. Members of the Nemangkawi police task force allegedly arrested the human rights activist without a warrant. The relatives were not immediately informed about the arrest and were later prevented from visiting Victor Yeimo during detention.

According to the lawyers, the internal policies at the Brimob headquarters repeatedly caused delays in legal counsel and hampered lawyers in monitoring Victor Yeimo’s health condition during police detention. They demand the immediate release of their client and a public apology for the alleged violations by the Papuan Police chief, Mathius Fakhiri. The Papuan police claim that the arrest and detention of Victor Yeimo were following the Indonesian Criminal Procedure Code (KUHAP).  

Yeimo’s lawyers submitted 16 documents as evidence for the alleged violations to the judge, while the lawyer’s representing the police chief handed over 49 documents concerning Victor Yeimo’s arrest and detention. The judges examined the documents and questioned multiple witnesses from both sides during the last pre-trial hearings on 27 and 30 August 2021. The next hearing was scheduled for 31 August 2021.

Trial against Victor Yeimo launched
Victor Yeimo’s health condition has continuously deteriorated since his imprisonment at the Police Mobile Brigade (Brimob) headquarters in Kotaraja, Jayapura. He lost weight, felt pain in the chest and reportedly vomited blood. In the afternoon of 10 August 2021, Victor Yeimo was brought to the Jayapura General Hospital for a first medical examination. The team doctors recommended further follow-up examinations by medical specialists.

Regardless of Victor Yeimo’s deteriorating health condition, the trial against him was launched at the Jayapura District Court on 24 August 2021. The court session was postponed twice because of Victor Yeimo’s deteriorating health condition. Mr Yeimo’s lawyers requested the panel of judges to allow medical attention for Mr Yeimo and transfer him to a different detention facility. On 27 August 2021, the judges agreed on a medical follow-up examination and treatment after two members of the Papuan provincial parliament, John NR Gobai and Laurenzus Kadepa, declared their willingness to vouch for Victor Yeimo legally.

In the late afternoon of 27 August 2021, the public prosecutor, Mr Adrianus Y. Tomana, accompanied Victor Yeimo to the general hospital in Jayapura. Based on the results of the medical examinations, the doctors recommended an inpatient treatment as Victor Yeimo suffers from a chronic digestive infection and a lung disease. Instead of allowing a sufficient medical examination and treatment, the public prosecutor brought Victor Yeimo back to his cell at 8.00 pm, ignoring the doctor’s recommendation of inpatient treatment for Mr Yeimo.

Victor Yeimo’s lawyers claim that the public prosecutor ignores the judge’s instruction to allow a full medical treatment at the hospital, as recommended by the team of medical specialists. Lawmakers John NR Gobai and Laurenzus Kadepa, relatives and lawyers attempted to discuss Victor Yeimo’s medical treatment with the chief of the public prosecutor’s office on 28 August 2021 (see photo, source: Jubi). However, the negotiations were not successful.

The lawyers also called upon the public prosecutor’s office to transfer Victor Yeimo to a different detention facility. However, the public prosecutor’s office in Jayapura did not react to the request.

Victor Yeimo continues to be detained in his isolation cell. Both sides are now waiting for further instructions from the panel of judges in the upcoming court session on 31 August 2021. On 30 August 2021, the chairman of the KNPB, Agus Kosay, called upon its supporters to gather at the high prosecutor’s office in Jayapura and demand immediate medical treatment for Victor Yeimo in response to the failed negotiations. Police officers dispersed the peaceful protest with force at 1.00 pm. At least 6 protesters named  Gad Holanue, Varra Iyaba, Hengki Giban, Leti Soll, Egenius Tebay and Jufri Dogomo were injured during the crowd control operation. The police arrested three protesters.