Trial against Papuan human rights activist Victor Yeimo continues despite ongoing medical treatment

On 21 February 2021, Indonesian law enforcement institutions continued the trial against Papuan human rights defender and activist Mr Victor Yeimo. He is the international spokesperson of the West Papua National Coalition (KNPB), a civil resistance movement promoting the right to political self-determination in West Papua through peaceful means. The trial against Mr Yeimo was initially launched at the Jayapura District Court in August 2021 but had to be interrupted because his health condition significantly deteriorated during detention. After almost six months of medical treatment at the public hospital, the judges decided to continue the trial. Mr Yeimo’s lawyers accuse the judges of ignoring their client’s right to health. The judges gave the order to detain Victor Yeimo at the Abepura detention facility, despite a medical letter stating that he needs further treatment for recovery at the hospital.

According to Mr Yeimo’s lawyers, the Jayapura district court was heavily guarded by police personnel. Police officers reportedly prevented visitors from attending the public trial hearing on 21 February. Lawyers and human rights observers understood the heavy police presence as an attempt at intimidation.

During the hearing, the public prosecutor accused Mr Yeimo of having organized a large demonstration against racial discrimination against indigenous Papuans on 19 August 2019. The demonstration was followed by a series of similar protests across all major towns in West Papua throughout August and September 2019.

According to the indictment, Mr Yeimo has been charged with treason as regulated in Article 106 of the Indonesian Criminal Code (KUHP), criminal conspiracy against the state (Article 110 KUHP) and Incitement (Article 160 KUHP). Treason can carry a sentence of up to 20 years imprisonment.

Victor Yeimo says he participated in the protest and made an oration after he was asked to speak to the crowd. However, he denies any wrongdoing and involvement in the planning of the protest. Human rights observers expressed concerns that the trial is an attempt to criminalize him for peacefully expressing his political views.

The judges gave the order to detain Victor Yeimo at the Abepura Detention Facility, ignoring a letter on the current status of Mr Yeimo’s ongoing tuberculosis treatment. The letter was issued by his doctors at the public hospital. Following the trial hearing, police officers brought Mr Yeimo to the Abepura Detention Centre. However, the prison doctor refused to follow the judges’ order to detain Victor Yeimo because his tuberculosis treatment was still ongoing, emphasizing the risk of transmission to other inmates and correctional officers.

A coalition of Papuan human rights organisations urged the judges and public prosecutor to respect Victor Yeimo’s right to health and refrain from the defendant’s detention as long as the medical treatment is ongoing. The coalition members called upon the National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM) to monitor the trial.

A scheduled trial hearing on 25 February 2021 was adjourned because Victor Yeimo continues to receive medical treatment at the Dok 2 General Hospital in Jayapura.

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