6 Jul 2013

Tribunal to highlight Papua's Biak massacre 15 years on

5:34 am on 6 July 2013

A citizens' tribunal is being held at the University of Sydney today to mark the 15th anniversary of the Biak massacre in West Papua.

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

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.

Indonesian security forces obstructed efforts to count the victims.

However a political counselor at the US Embassy in Jakarta at the time, Ed McWilliams, who visited Biak a few days later, believes the death toll to be in the hundreds.

"Obviously the people of West Papua have suffered under Indonesian military repression for decades, and there have been many instances of cruelty and killing of Papuans, But the number of people killed (in Biak) was significant but also the manner in which they were killed."

Ed McWilliams

The University of Sydney's Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies is hosting the tribunal which involves survivors and a team of international jurists.