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Asia Pacific Report newsdesk

International pressure is mounting on Indonesia to free West Papuan activist Victor Yeimo, the international spokesperson for the peaceful civilian West Papua National Committee (KNPB), as concern grows over his worsening state of health.

Following the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders Mary Lawlor’s declaration on twitter two days ago that Yeimo was at risk of being infected with covid-19, the Australia West Papua Association (AWPA) has written to Foreign Minister Marise Payne saying there was concern over his deteriorating health.

“He is losing weight and has been coughing blood for the past few days,” spokesman Joe Collins said in the letter today.

Amnesty International Indonesia has also raised concerns about Yeimo and about the arrest of 14 Cendrawasih University (Unicen) students who on Tuesday called for his release from Mako Brimob prison in the Papuan capital Jayapura.

Suara Papua reports that the KNPB on Monday urged the Papua regional police and the Papua chief public prosecutor to immediately release Yeimo because there was no legal basis for his detention and his health had been deteriorating since his arrest on May 9.

“For the sake of humanity and the authority of the Indonesian state, immediately release Victor Yeimo and all Papuan independence activists who have been arrested without [legal] grounds, evidence or witnesses,” said KNPB chairperson Agus Kossay in a media statement.

“The Papuan people are not the perpetrators of racism.”

‘Disturbing reports’
Lawlor’s twitter post the following day said: “I am hearing disturbing reports that human rights defender from #WestPapua, Victor Yeimo, is suffering from deteriorating health in prison. I’m concerned because his pre-existing health conditions put him at grave risk of #COVID-19.”

Yeimo faces a number of charges, including treason, because of his peaceful role in the anti-racism protests on 19 August 2019.

He is accused of violating Articles 106 and 110 of the Criminal Code on treason and conspiracy to commit treason.

Many analysts on West Papuan affairs consider these charges to be trumped up.

Amnesty International Indonesia deputy director Wirya Adiwena said that the students protesting for Yeimo should be protected — not arrested and treated like criminals.

“Like Victor, these Uncen students are only using their right to exercise freedom of expression, assembly and association, to peacefully speak their minds,” said Adiwena.

Against human rights
The jailing of peaceful activists because they had taken part in a demonstration was against their rights under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states,
Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek receive and impart information and ideas though any media and regardless of frontiers (Article 19).

Article 20(1) states that everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.

Lawyer and human rights activist Veronica Koman also called for the release of Yeimo.

“Victor Yeimo will not be safe if he remains behind [the bars] of a colonial prison. Colonialism will continue to demand political sacrifices,” wrote Koman on her Facebook.

Collins of AWPA said his movement was greatly concerned that by denying Yeimo proper adequate medical care, the Indonesian authorities were putting his him at “grave risk of death or other irreversible damage to his health”.

The AWPA called on Minister Payne “to use your good offices with the Indonesian government to call for the immediate and unconditional release of Victor Yeimo and all political prisoners”.

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