Zely Ariane – CIVICUS, a global civil society alliance, and the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) have expressed their deepest concern about the ongoing trial against Papuan human rights defender Victor Yeimo.
"He [Yeimo] is arbitrarily detained for speaking out against gross human rights violations committed by the Indonesian security forces against Papuans. [Yeimo] must be released immediately," said the two organizations in a written statement released on Friday, March 4, 2022, and received Jubi on Sunday.
Victor Yeimo, a pro-Papua independence activist and international spokesman for the West Papua National Committee (KNPB), was arrested on 9 May 2021 and charged with Articles 106 and 110 of the Criminal Code on treason. The charge was brought against him for his involvement in peaceful anti-racism protests in 2019. On the day of his arrest, he was denied access to legal aid and his family.
"We call for the immediate and unconditional release of Victor Yeimo and other political prisoners in Papua. The Indonesian government should not criminalize activists who speak out against human rights violations in Papua and should listen to their complaints," said Josef Benedict, an Asia-Pacific researcher at CIVICUS.
Echoing the United Nations, CIVICUS noted that in recent years, human rights violations in Papua have been increasingly under the spotlight of the United Nations and the international community. Recently, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders Mary Lawlor voiced the deteriorating situation in the provinces of Papua and West Papua, with a large number of cases of internally displaced Papuans, extrajudicial killings, disappearances, and torture, wherein Papuan children are among the victims. UN experts have called on the Indonesian government to conduct an independent investigation into these allegations of violence and urged humanitarian aid to the province.
"The activities of Victor Yeimo and other activists in Papua, who boldly spoke about the massive human rights violations committed by the security forces in Papua, are crucial to holding the Indonesian government accountable and bringing the victims and their families to justice. Instead of criminalizing them, the government should enable a safe space for activists and the people to voice their concerns," said Basil Fernando, the Director of Policy and Programs at the Asian Human Rights Commission.
CIVICUS is a global alliance of civil society organizations and activists committed to strengthening citizen and civil society actions around the world. Founded in 1993, it has been headquartered in Johannesburg, South Africa since 2002.
CIVICUS has more than 9,000 members in more than 175 countries. In the last five years, CIVICUS has focused its programs on defending civil liberties and democratic values; strengthening the people's power to organize, mobilize and take action; and empowering civil society to be more accountable, effective, and innovative. According to CIVICUS Monitor, civil space in Indonesia is considered 'obstructed'.
Previously, three UN Special Rapporteurs in Geneva, namely Jose Francisco Cali Tzay (Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Peoples), Morris Tidball-Binz (Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Killings and Arbitrary Arrest), and Cecilia Jimenez-Damary (Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Internally Refugees) on Tuesday, March 1, also called for humanitarian access to Papua and West Papua and urged the Indonesian government to conduct a full and independent investigation of alleged human rights violations against Indigenous Papuans.
Indonesia accuses UN Special Rapporteur of bias
Citing Reuters on March 2, the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Indonesia to the United Nations, World Trade Organization, and Other International Organizations in Geneva rejected calls by UN human rights experts for an independent investigation into reports of "shocking abuses" against Indigenous Papuans.
Calling the UN experts' statements as "biased", the Permanent Mission of Indonesia said these experts had ignored "verifiable data and information" regarding the same allegations that had been submitted by Indonesia.
"The Indonesian government has put forth extraordinary efforts to deal with all cases related to this crime," the Permanent Mission of Indonesia said in its release on March 1.
Regarding the internally displaced people due to armed conflict, the mission claims, "There are many factors that cause a wave of internally displaced people in Papua and West Papua provinces, such as disasters, houses being attacked by armed criminal groups, tribal conflicts, and conflicts around regional head elections".
The Permanent Mission of Indonesia also refuted statements saying all cases of displacement were due to 'security forces activities'. "It is not only untrue, but it also perpetuates the dangerous narrative advocated by armed criminal groups to spread public distrust of security personnel," said the mission.
In fact, armed conflict continues to occur in Papua between the Indonesian Military (TNI) and Police and the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNBP). This week, eight telecommunication workers in Beoga, Puncak Regency, were shot dead. The TPNPB claimed to have shot these people but refused to admit the casualties were civilians, insisting they were members of the security forces.