5 Jul 2013

15th anniversary of Biak massacre marked

1:40 pm on 5 July 2013

This weekend marks the 15th anniversary of the Biak massacre in West Papua, when scores of West Papuans were wounded, arrested or killed while calling for independence from Indonesia.

On July 6, 1998, in Biak Island's main town, Indonesian military units launched a dawn attack on Papuans who had staged a peaceful demonstration over several days.

Some were shot on the spot while many others were taken onto Indonesian naval boats and thrown into the ocean before their mutilated bodies washed up on Biak's shores over following days.

A political counsellor at the US Embassy in Jakarta at the time, Ed McWilliams, visited Biak a few days later and found an entire town traumatised.

"And we don't know the number of people (who died) but we estimate certainly in the hundreds. The effort was made to try to try to simply determine how many were killed by counting the bodies that were floating up from having been thrown into the sea, but the Indonesian military authorities would not allow the people to collect the bodies as they came in on the shore."

Ed McWilliams

To mark the anniversary, survivors and a team of international jurists are holding a citizens' tribunal at the University of Sydney tomorrow.