Victor Yeimo, the Spokesperson for the West Papua National Committee (KNPB) must be immediately and unconditionally released from custody by the Indonesian authorities.

Victor Yeimo is now facing possible life imprisonment for ‘treason’. Why? Simply for being accused of peacefully protesting against racism towards West Papuans. Victor Yeimo is himself a clear example of what it means to be a victim of the deep-seated racism we West Papuans endure under Indonesian colonialism. The UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, Mary Lawlor has raised particular concerns about Victor Yeimo’s deteriorating health in prison, stating on Twitter, ‘I’m concerned because his pre-existing health conditions put him at grave risk of #COVID19.’ Amnesty International is calling for Victor Yeimo’s immediate and unconditional release from jail and is running a letter writing campaign encouraging people everywhere to support this call. Victor Yeimo’s situation is highly similar to the plight of the ‘Balikpapan 7’, West Papuan political prisoners who were also arrested and jailed in 2020 for the same anti-racist protests of the 2019 West Papua Uprising. They were finally released following a huge national and international solidarity campaign. Their suffering and struggle should have proved to Indonesia and to the world, we do not need any more political prisoners in West Papua.

I also condemn all Indonesian state violence towards the people of West Papua which has been perpetrated by the Indonesian security forces in recent days. During recent demonstrations for our right to self-determination and for Victor Yeimo’s release, many people were arrested and tortured and one person in Yahukimo was shot by the Indonesian police. In Jayapura, several people were beaten until bloodied by the Indonesian police, including KNPB Chairman Agus Kossay. There were also people arrested in other cities, including Indonesians standing in solidarity with us West Papuans. There must be justice following these human rights violations and I demand that all those imprisoned be immediately released from custody. To add insult to injury, on 16th August the Indonesian police harassed and blocked the renowned West Papuan church leader and peacemaker Rev. Dr. Benny Giay from entering the local parliament where he wanted to pray. Who are the peacemakers in West Papua? Certainly not the Indonesian police, who have no respect for those actively building peace. This is a disgraceful incident and the Indonesian police should be deeply ashamed of themselves.

The Indonesian government has shown this week, as they have shown time and time again that they have no respect for the human rights of the West Papuan people. The only solution for West Papua is a peaceful one, one which respects our human rights, including our fundamental right to self-determination.

Benny Wenda
Interim President
ULMWP Provisional Government