Jayapura, Jubi – The Jayapura District Court on Monday, March 27, 2023, held another trial of treason against the International Spokesperson of the West Papua National Committee (KNPB), Viktor Yeimo. In the hearing, expert witnesses presented by Yeimo’s side, Herlambang Wiratraman and Cahyo Pamungkas said that anti-racism expression and referendum demands were not treason.
The alleged treason case originated from the anti-racism protest against racial slurs directed at Papuan students at the Kamasan III Papuan Student Dormitory in Surabaya on August 16, 2019. Yeimo was charged with treason for allegedly leading the protests that took place in Jayapura City on August 19 and 29, 2019.
The case was first registered at the Jayapura District Court on August 12, 2021. The trial is now led by a panel of judges chaired by Mathius with member judges Andi Asmuruf and Linn Carol Hamadi.
In Monday’s hearing, law lecturer Herlambang Wiratraman of Gadjah Mada University was examined as an expert on human rights and democracy. Herlambang said the expression of anti-racism and the political expression demanding referendum could not be called treason, as freedom of expression was guaranteed in Indonesian and international law.
Herlambang said that freedom of expression was a human right protected by the state. The state is responsible to carry out efforts to promote human rights.
“This responsibility is stipulated in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights ratified through Law No. 12/2005 which mandates the responsibility of the state to respect, protect and fulfill Human Rights Obligations in Freedom of Expression,” Herlambang said in court.
Herlambang also stated that racism was unacceptable, therefore protest against racism was an important part of the life of the nation and could not be called treason.
He further said that political expression for self-determination was part of human rights. “There is no violation of the law in conveying political expression,” he said.
According to him, referendum demands are one form of constitutional change known and recognized in state administration in Indonesia. He cited the referendum held in East Timor on August 30, 1999 facilitated by then Indonesian President B.J. Habibie.
“The referendum expression is not treason because it is carried out democratically, and solidarity is an expression guaranteed in Indonesian and international law. Political expression cannot be associated with treason,” Herlambang said.
In line with Herlambang, Cahyo Pamungkas, who was presented as an expert on conflict resolution in Papua, reminded that enforcement against anti-racism protester would not solve the conflict in Papua, rather it would fuel Papuan people’s determination to fight the state as they already distrust and resent the Indonesian government.
“This trial is only causing new problems, adding the resentment of the Papuan people and activists toward the Indonesian government,” Cahyo said.
The Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) has identified four root causes in Papua conflict. Cahyo said these roots must be resolved through a peaceful dialogue, and not by criminalizing activists like Viktor Yeimo.
The current Papua conflict, said Cahyo, was a continuation of the conflict that occurred in the past. In other words, it is an expression of disappointment from the Papuan people towards unfair distribution of resources in Papua, development inequality, and prolonged poverty among Papuans.
The disappointment arises because of various forms of political violence experienced by Papuans, including the stigmatization of Papuans as separatists and other forms of discrimination and racism. “Anti-racism protests like the one attended by Viktor Yeimo were merely conveying the people’s disappointment,” he said. (*)