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Papuan Democratic Activists Face Pressure

Two young Papuan democratic activists were targeted in October for their political activism. One, Victor Yeimo, was involved in peaceful demonstrations welcoming the formation of the International Parliamentarians for West Papua in October 2008. Meanwhile, Yoab Syatfle has gone into hiding following repeated death threats.

Yeimo's fate may well be that of Papuan activists Buchtar Tabuni and Sebby Sambom, who also were involved in the October 2008 welcoming of the formation of the International Parliamentarians for West Papua. They currently are serving sentences of three years in Abepura prison. Security authorities indicated Yeimo may also be involved in additional incidents in 2009. Public relations police officer, Agus Rianto told the media that in addition to the October 2008 demonstration, Yeimo could also face charges for an attack on the Abepura police command post in April 2009. The authorities indicated that Yeimo might face charges of treason as well as "incitement." The treason charges would be filed under Article 106 of the Criminal Code which carries a possible sentence of twenty years to life. Article 106 dates to the colonial era and was regularly employed by Dictator Suharto against his critics.

Amnesty International, on October 28, issued an "Action Alert"warning that "the life of Yoab Syatfle could be in danger." The Alert explained that on 26 October Syatfle received six anonymous SMS messages threatening that he would be abducted and killed if he left his house. One of them warned: "you are one of the people we are looking for, we remember you, if you leave your house yard one more time, you will be killed." The death threats, according to Amnesty International appear related to Syatfle's role in a demonstration scheduled for October 29 in the city of Sorong in West Papua. Amnesty concludes that Syatfle was targeted "because he is a prominent peaceful political activist in Papua." (Syatfle is the Sorong Secretary of the Papua Traditional Council or Dewan Adat Papua which represents Indigenous communities in Papua. He is also Secretary of the Papua National Consensus Team, a non-violent group campaigning for a peaceful internationally mediated solution to the political problems in Papua. He has met with U.S. Congressional leaders in the past.)

Amnesty International notes in its alert: "The right to free expression, opinion and assembly is guaranteed under the Indonesian Constitution and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Indonesia is a state party. However, members of human rights organizations in Papua have been harassed and intimidated because of their work, and many peaceful pro-independence political activists have been arrested and sentenced to long terms of imprisonment."


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