Update on prosecution of Papuan human rights activist - Victor Yeimo’s health worsened during detention

Multiple observers have expressed concerns regarding the health of Papuan human rights activist Victor Yeimo. Mr Yeimo was arrested on 9 May 2021 and charged with various criminal charges, among others treason, conspiracy and incitement. He has been detained at the Police Mobile Brigade (Brimob) headquarters in Jayapura for more than three months. Human rights lawyer and director of the Papuan Association of Human Rights Lawyers for Papua (PAHAM Papua), Gustaf Kawer, visited Victor Yeimo on 9 August 2021 during detention. Kawer said Mr Yeimo’s health has continuously deteriorated since his imprisonment at the Brimob headquarters. Mr Yeimo lost weight. He feels pain in the chest and reportedly vomited blood. Health workers of the Bhayangkara police hospital had allegedly paid occasional visits to Mr Yeimo but only conducted general health check-ups and provided him with medication against gastric pain.

The West Papua National Committee (KNPB) successfully lobbied provincial parliament members in early August 2021. On 10 August 2021, the head of the Papuan provincial parliament, Jhony Banua Rouw, had a meeting with the high prosecutor’s office in Jayapura to ensure sufficient access to healthcare for Victor Yeimo during detention.

Meanwhile, the case files in the law enforcement process against Mr Yeimo have been handed over to the public prosecutor, who will be in charge of his detention until the case files have been submitted to the Jayapura district court. In the afternoon of 10 August 2021, Victor Yeimo was brought to the Jayapura General Hospital for further medical examinations (see photo, source: Papuan Human Rights Coalition).

Meanwhile, the KNPB and human rights observers have demanded his immediate transfer from the Brimob headquarters to the Abepura correctional facility. Human rights lawyer, Veronica Koman, called upon the law enforcement institutions in Jayapura to immediately release Victor Yeimo from detention, as a transfer to the overcrowded Abepura penitentiary would pose considerable health risks for Mr Yeimo.

Mr Yeimo suffers from health problems, requiring him to take medicines three times a day. His health condition also makes him more vulnerable to a severe course of a COVID-19 infection, as Victor Yeimo has not been vaccinated against the virus yet. Media outlets reported that COVID-19 conditions in the Papua Province have significantly increased since late July 2021.

Victor Yeimo is detained in an isolation cell with limited air circulation and no daylight – his relatives are not allowed to visit him during detention. The lawyers can only meet Victor Yeimo after getting permission from the criminal investigator at the Papua Regional Police, hampering legal aid as guaranteed under international human rights treaties and the Indonesian Criminal Procedure Code (KUHAP).

In mid-May 2021, Victor Yeimo’s lawyers had already expressed concerns regarding multiple procedural violations during arrest and detention. They received arrest and detention warrants only one day after the arrest. In contrast, the KUHAP requires the police to present the warrants at the time of the arrest.

In light of these conditions and concerns, the London-based NGO TAPOL reported the arrest of Victor Yeimo to the Special Procedures of the UN Human Rights Council.