Groups Urge Justice on 15th Anniversary of Biak, West Papua Massacre
Saturday, July 6, is the 15th anniversary of one of the worst massacres in Indonesia's post-Suharto history. On that day in 1998, members of the Indonesian military ruthlessly gunned down peaceful pro-independence demonstrators on the island Biak in West Papua. Like so many massacres in Indonesia, the exact number of those killed is unknown.
The East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) and the West Papua Advocacy Team (WPAT) today urge the U.S. government to publicly press the Indonesian government to acknowledge the Biak massacre and take the necessary steps to bring those responsible to justice. We regard it as unconscionable that the U.S. is proceeding to expand its ties with an Indonesian military that continues to violate human rights and remains unaccountable for massacres in Biak, East Timor, Aceh and elsewhere.
At the time, the new, nominally democratic government of Indonesia disingenuously denied the massacre had taken place, contending the bodies washing ashore were victims of a tsunami that had struck Papua New Guinea more than hundreds of miles to the east.
No government of Indonesia has acknowledged the massacre or held the perpetrators accountable. The government continues to discourage investigation of this and other human rights crimes in West Papua by limiting access to the territory by foreign journalists, independent researchers, as well as UN and other international officials.
ETAN and WPAT extend our sympathy to the families of this victims of the Biak Massacre and to the West Papuan people in general who have suffered under Indonesian military repression for decades.
ETAN, formed in 1991, advocates for democracy, justice and human rights for Timor-Leste, West Papua and Indonesia. ETAN on the web: http://www.etan.org. Twitter: etan009. The West Papua Advocacy Team is a U.S.-based NGO composed of academics, human rights defenders and a retired U.S. diplomat.
Three WPAT members - U.S. embassy official Ed McWilliams, anthropologist Eben Kirksey, and journalist Octo Mote - were in Biak in July 1998 and witnessed the aftermath of the massacre. The two groups also oppose continued and expanded military-to-military cooperation with the Indonesia, including with the Indonesian Navy. McWilliams account of the Biak Massacre is here. Mote's recent video testimony is here. Kirksey's account is excerpted here.
Both organizations co-publish the monthly West Papua Report.
For additional background on the Biak Massacre see http://www.biak-tribunal.org/. This is the website of The Citizens Tribunal for the 15th Anniversary of the Biak Massacre to be held on Saturday, July 6 at the University of Sydney.