U.N. rights expert says Papuan held in Indonesia at risk of dying



Sept 21 (Reuters) - A U.N. expert has urged Indonesia to provide an independence activist in its Papua province with proper medical care to "keep him from dying in prison", after reports that his health had deteriorated.

Indonesia rejected the suggestion that Victor Yeimo, 39, who is the international spokesman of the West Papua National Committee, was not getting proper medical care.

Yeimo was arrested in the provincial capital of Jayapura in May and charged with treason and inciting violence and social unrest in relation to pro-independence protests that swept the remote, resource-rich region for several weeks in 2019.

Yeimo has denied the charges.

His trial went ahead in August despite repeated requests from his lawyer for a delay on medical grounds, Mary Lawlor, U.N. special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, said in a statement on Monday.

"I've seen it before: States deny medical care to ailing, imprisoned human rights defenders, which results in serious illness or death," said Lawlor.

"Indonesia must take urgent steps to ensure the fate does not await Mr Yeimo," she said, adding that his access to medical care had been restricted and his prison conditions "may have amounted to torture".

Indonesia's permanent mission in Geneva said in a statement it rejected the assertion that Yeimo had been denied medical care.

The government had followed a court order to take the defendant for hospital treatment since Aug. 30, which "attests to the government of Indonesia’s seriousness in ensuring the health and wellbeing of Mr Yeimo," it said.

It also pointed out that the constitution guaranteed human rights and equality before the law for all Indonesians.

Yeimo is being treated at a Jayapura hospital after the court ordered he receive medical attention.

Papuan separatists have pushed for independence for decades, saying a 1969 vote overseen by the United Nations that brought the former Dutch colony under Indonesian control was illegitimate. Indonesia rejects that.

Papuan activist Rosa Javiera told a news conference organised by the rights group Amnesty International on Tuesday that Yeimo should not return to jail because he was suffering from chronic tuberculosis that required continuous medical treatment.

Additional reporting by Jakarta bureau; Editing by Ed Davies, Robert Birsel

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