Indonesia rights commission alleges slain Papuan pastor was tortured

Troops guarded a gas station in Merauke District, Papua, Tuesday (Sept 3, 2019). (ANTARA/HO/Merauke District Police's Documentation). Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

JAKARTA, Nov 2, 2020, Reuters. Indonesia’s human rights commission said on Monday that a fact-finding team believed the military had tortured a pastor in the country’s Papua region in a bid to extract information on stolen military weapons before shooting him dead, Reuters reported.

Resource-rich Papua has been plagued by a long-standing conflict between security forces and separatist groups since its absorption into Indonesia in 1969.

In late September, Christian pastor Yeremia Zanambani was found dead with gunshot wounds in a pig shed, sparking outrage and pressure from church groups for an investigation.

A report on Monday by Indonesia’s human rights commission (Komnas HAM) said it suspected a military officer of torturing and shooting the pastor during a search for missing weapons and the whereabouts of separatists.

Describing the killing as “extra-judicial”, the report said wounds from a sharp weapon were also found on the pastor.

After a separate government fact-finding probe, Indonesia’s chief security minister said last month security forces or a “third party” may have had some involvement.

Komnas HAM said in Monday’s report it had recommended to President Joko Widodo and the security minister that along with finding the culprits, witnesses should be protected and efforts made to ensure a less security-driven approach to policing the area.

“Civilians become victims after being suspected of joining separatist groups by the TNI (Indonesian army) or the police,” Beka Ulung Hapsara, a commissioner at Komnas HAM, told Reuters.

Responding to the report, military spokesman Colonel Gusti Nyoman Suriastawa said an investigation was ongoing and it would not hesitate to punish any officer if found guilty.

A spokesman for Indonesia’s security ministry declined to comment.

Reporting by Stanley Widianto and Agustinus Beo Da Costa; Editing by Ed Davies

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