Victor Yeimo: ‘Let Him Get Old in Prison’

Victor Yeimo was born at his family’s house in Kebo Village in Paniai, West Papua, in 1983. He grew up watching his village and family members persecuted by the Indonesian Army. His determination to free his people had begun when he was a teenager. He excelled at school, and is now known as one of the brightest minds of the current generation of West Papuan civil resistance leaders advocating for independence from Indonesian rule.

Victor Yeimo is the international spokesperson for the West Papua National Committee (Komite Nasional Papua Barat, KNPB), the largest, peaceful pro-independence organisation in West Papua; and for the Papuan’s People Petition (Petisi Rakyat Papua, PRP), a network of 112 organisations fighting against governance by special autonomy in West Papua.

Yeimo is wanted by the Indonesian authorities over his peaceful role during the 2019 West Papua Uprising. The Uprising swept across 40 towns in West Papua and Indonesia during the period of 19 August to 30 September 2019. The three main demands of the Uprising were to condemn racism, to prosecute perpetrators of racist incidents in Java which triggered the Uprising, and to demand West Papuan people’s right to self-determination through a referendum on independence.

Yeimo is one of very few West Papuans living inside West Papua who speaks fluent English. He is frequently interviewed by international media to provide information and updates on the situation in West Papua, including the human rights situation.The limited access of international media to West Papua has rendered Mr Yeimo’s role as providing information on the situation in West Papua all the more indispensable. His views and his national and international engagements have been considered dangerous by the Government of Indonesia who have imposed de facto information restrictions on West Papua.

Prior to his last arrest, he had been arrested twice in the past and tortured for his political activities. He is on trial and has been detained at a high security prison causing his health to deteriorate.

Police originally charged Mr Yeimo with 12 offences, including arson and theft, but when the case was finally handed to prosecutors, only four charges were deemed eligible to proceed with. The four charges are typically used by the Indonesian authorities to target peaceful West Papuan activists, including treason, which carries a sentence of life imprisonment. As the police have said of him, “let him get old in prison”.

Note: Victor Yeimo has been indicted on Articles 106 [treason], 110 section (1) [conspiracy to commit treason], 110 section (2) [incitement to treason], and 160 [criminal incitement] of the Indonesian Criminal Code.