28 Aug 2021

NZ discusses West Papuan accused of treason with Indonesia

10:22 am on 28 August 2021

New Zealand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs has confirmed that officials have raised concern with Indonesia over the case of a West Papuan political prisoner.

Catherine Delahunty.

Catherine Delahunty. Photo: SUPPLIED

But a West Papua solidarity group in New Zealand says merely raising the matter is not enough, and that the human rights problems in Papua demand more action.

A leading pro-independence activist in Papua, Victor Yeimo, is charged with treason over his alleged role in anti-racism protests that turned into riots in 2019.

Yeimo's trial began this week and, if convicted, the West Papua National Committee foreign spokesman faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.

The office of New Zealand's Minister fo Foreign Affairs, Nanaia Mahuta, has confirmed that officials have raised Yeimo in regular discussions with Indonesian officials.

But Catherine Delahunty of West Papua Action Aotearoa said New Zealand needed to do more to encourage Indonesia to respect basic human and democratic rights.

"We support the position that the Pacific islands Forum took that there should be a (UN) investigation into human rights in Papua. And this is yet another example where human rights abuses are clearly being abused."

Delahunty said the case of Yeimo was a "dangerous situation for West Papuans" regarding their human rights in a heavily militarised region.

"It typifies the issue that human rights abuses are carrying right through into the legal world.

"This is the extrame end of legal abuse of a citizen for basic democratic involvement," Delahunty said.

International human rights groups have demanded Yeimo's release, and raised concern about his health after being held in poor isolated conditions by Indonesian police since his arrest three months ago.

As his trial began this week, Yeimo made a plea to the court that he needed urgent medical treatment.

Delahunty said New Zealand could not stay silent.

"We're very concerned supposedly about human rights in Afghanistan, human rights in China, and just the odd slap on the wrist with official to official murmurings is not going to cut it," Delahunty said.