Indonesian police arrested Victor Yeimo, an independence activist, according to a statement from Iqbal Alqudusy, the head of the Nemangkawi special commission, on Monday.
Yeimo is known as the former spokesperson and current chairman of the National Committee for West Papua, a group of peaceful protesters calling for a self-determination referendum. He was arrested on charges of makar who, according to local reports, refer to treason, subversion and rebellion. The makar charges are brought under the country’s controversial Penal Code.
The accusation refers to Yeimo’s alleged public statements inspiring unrest and allegedly spreading lies. This follows his involvement in anti-racism protests in 2019. The protests drew thousands, left dozens dead and sparked an internet blackout.
Alqudusy commented that the police “arrested a person [Yeimo] on the wanted list in a case of racism and riots in Papua in 2019. ”
Indonesian police also suspect Yeimo of having insulted the country ”[a]s referred to in the wording of article 106 in conjunction with article 87 of the penal code (KUHP) and / or article 110 of the KUHP and / or article 14 paragraphs (1) and (2) and l Article 15 of Law No. 1/1946 on Penal Regulations.
Yeimo has already been the subject of police action. He has been arrested several times during his activism, largely for his involvement in the protests.
Likewise, many human rights defenders and activists face sanctions for their work. Arrests are a method commonly used by Indonesian authorities in an attempt to discourage dissent.
The arrests of peaceful protesters and dissenting voices raise concerns over Indonesia’s respect for international law. Indonesia signed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in 2006. The treaty provides for a right of peaceful assembly in article 21. Article 19 provides for the right of individuals to hold opinions without interference and to freedom of expression.