Papuan Pastor Yerimia Zanambani killed in Intan Jaya

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Another extra-judicial execution has reportedly occurred in the highland regency of Intan Jaya, Papua Province, on 19 September 2020. According to the Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Desk of the Papuan Tabernacle Church (Kingmi Papua), members of the Yonif 711/RKS/Brigif 22/OTA, DAM XIII/MDK Military Unit killed the 68-year-old Pastor Yerimia Zanambani (see intro image). The killing happened near Bomba, a small village in the Hitadipa District. Rev Zanambani was a pastor and bible translator working for the Protestant Evangelical Church in Indonesia (GKII).

However, the military representative Captain Kogabwihan Suriastawa declared in an interview with the national news outlet Kompas, that members of the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPN PB) allegedly killed the pastor.  He explained that the TPN PB aimed to draw attention to the armed conflict in West Papua shortly before the annual United Nations General Assembly in late September 2020. Human rights defenders claim that this inaccurate information. They explained that the Indonesian military (TNI) is distributing false information about the incident to seek the support of the public and protect their members from being prosecuted. They stated that the scenario described by the TNI representative is highly unlikely because Rev Zanambani was an indigenous Papuan and well-respected pastor in his congregation. His pastoral activities were an enrichment for the entire congregation, including for those community members affiliated with the TPN PB.

At 1.30 pm, TPN PB fighters shot dead a military member named Pratu Dwi Akbar Utomo near the Hitadipa military base and seized his firearm. Thereupon, the local military chief urged the TPN PB to immediately return the weapon. Or otherwise military members would carry out raids in the surrounding villages to track down the weapons and the perpetrators.

According to information received from Kingmi Papua, Rev Zanambani and his wife left their house in Bomba around 4.30 pm to walk to the pigsty, which was approximately 4 km away from the house. The couple prepared and distributed the food among the animals. Subsequently, Rev Zanambani’s wife returned to their house while Rev Yeremia Zanambani still stayed with the pigs. When a group of military members saw Rev Zanambani’s wife returning home by herself, they went to the pigsty, where they allegedly executed Rev Zanambani.

On the following day, 20 September, his relatives started looking after him. Around 7.30 am, they found his body at the pigsty. According to the witnesses, the corpse was lying in midst a pool of blood and showed multiple stabbing wounds and a bullet wound. They brought the body back home and cremated it around 1.30 pm. There was no forensic examination or autopsy of the body prior to the cremation.

The villagers in Bomba and the surrounding areas have fled to other villages which they considered as safe. They fear further acts of violence by members of the military and demanded the local government in Intan Jaya to withdraw all troops from the Hitadipa District.

The extra-judicial execution of Rev Zanambani is the latest in a series of violent incidents in the Intan Jaya Regency. An armed attack on a military post occurred in the village of Mamba, Intan Jaya Regency, on 14 September 2020. According to the news outlet Suara Papua, three military members were reportedly killed during the armed clashes. Other sources reported that two migrants - both civilians - were injured during the clash. Previously, human rights defenders were concerned about military (TNI) members repeatedly approaching primary and middle schools in Intan Jaya’s major town Sugapa to monitor Papuan pupils who appeared to support the right to political self-determination in West Papua.