Amnesty International Indonesia May 5, 2023
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Unconditional Release of Viktor Yeimo and Political Activists in Papua
Responding to the guilty verdict of the Jayapura District Court Panel of Judges regarding the anti-racism protests in 2019 against West Papua National Committee (KNPB) activists, Viktor Yeimo, Executive Director of Amnesty International Indonesia Usman Hamid said:
“Although we respect that the Jayapura District Court panel of judges handed down a lighter sentence than the demands of the public prosecutor, we consider that the guilty verdict shows the state’s neglect of respecting human rights. We need to abandon the use of treason and insult articles in the Criminal Code to punish peaceful activists and protesters in Papua, Maluku and elsewhere.”
“In Papua, the pattern of violence has been going on for a long time against those who advocate and even just practice freedom of expression and fulfillment of other human rights. Today’s conviction of Viktor Yeimo is just one example of the lack of human rights guarantees.”
“This will send a message to other activists and protesters that dissent and the peaceful expression of their views is not tolerated by the state. Even though the state has committed to respect it.
“We urge the state to release Viktor Yeimo and other activists who are imprisoned just for expressing their expressions peacefully in Papua. Because it is all guaranteed by the constitution.”
Viktor Yeimo, activist and spokesperson for the West Papua National Committee (KNPB), at a trial at the Jayapura District Court Friday, May 5, was sentenced to eight months in prison in connection with his involvement in anti-racism demonstrations in Papua which led to riots in August 2019. Sentence from the Panel of Judges lighter than what the public prosecutor demanded, namely three years in prison.
In addition, in sentencing the defendant, the Panel of Judges used Article 155 of the Criminal Code (KUHP), which contains broadcasting or showing letters or pictures that contain statements of feelings of hostility, hatred, insult or humiliation to the Indonesian Government.
The article used by the Panel of Judges is different from the four articles used by the Public Prosecutor. On 21 February 2022, the public prosecutor charged Viktor Yeimo with four articles in the Criminal Code, namely Article 106 on treason, Article 110 Paragraph 1 on conspiracy to treason, Article 110 Paragraph 2 on preparing for treason, and Article 160 on incitement.
One of Viktor Yeimo’s lawyers, as reported by the media, stated that the judge’s decision is known as ultra petita, namely a decision that goes beyond the charges and demands of the public prosecutor.
Viktor Yeimo denied all these accusations by saying he was not involved in planning the 2019 anti-racism demonstration and only took part in the action because he felt devastated by the racist treatment of Papuans.
Authorities in Indonesia have used the penal code, particularly the treason clause, to prosecute dozens of peaceful pro-independence political activists in Papua who legally exercise their rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly.
According to Amnesty International’s monitoring data from 2019 to 2022, at least 78 people in Papua have been arrested on charges of violating treason articles under Articles 106 and 110 of the old Criminal Code.
Under national law, the rights to freedom of opinion, assembly and association are also guaranteed in the 1945 Constitution, specifically Article 28E paragraph (3), Article 23 paragraph (2) and Article 24 paragraph (1) of Law no. 39 of 1999. It should be remembered that Article 23 of Law Number 39 of 1999 concerning Human Rights also guarantees that everyone is free to have their own political beliefs and to express opinions according to their conscience.
The right to freedom of expression, including political expression, is also guaranteed in Article 19 of the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which is further explained in General Comment No. 34 regarding Article 19 of the ICCPR. It should be underlined that Indonesia has ratified the ICCPR through Law no. 12 of 2005, which also means that Indonesia has a binding obligation to respect, protect and fulfill these rights.
Amnesty International does not take any position on the political status of any provinces in Indonesia, including their calls for independence. However, in our opinion, freedom of expression includes the right to peacefully express one’s views or political solutions.