18 years since the Biak massacre, but suffering still ongoing

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The water tower on Kota Biak ... scene of a bloody massacre on 6 July 1998. Image: Andrew Kilvert/Biak Massacre Citizens Tribunal

OPINION: Contributed by the Australian West Papua Association

On the 2 July 1998, the West Papuan Morning Star flag was raised on top of a water tower near the harbour in Biak.

Up to 75 people gathered beneath it singing songs and holding traditional dances. As the rally continued, many more people in the area joined in with numbers reaching up to 500 people.

On the July 6 the Indonesian security forces attacked the demonstrators, massacring scores of people.

The victims included women and children who had gathered for the peaceful gathering. They were killed at the base of the water tower.

Other Papuans were rounded up and later taken out to sea where they were thrown off naval ships and drowned. No security force personal were ever charged over the killings.

Eighteen years later, the West Papuan people continue to suffer human rights abuses

-Partners-

Since the beginning of May more than 3000 West Papuans have been arrested in peaceful rallies throughout West Papua.

Although the majority of activists were eventually released, during the arrests on the May 2 in Jayapura a large number of activists were taken to the mobile brigade (BRIMOB) headquarters and made to remove their shirts and put in a field in the extremely hot midday sun.

Seven activists were also reported to have been tortured.

The tragedy of the Biak massacre reminds us of the ongoing suffering of the West Papuan people and the importance of full membership for them at the MSG.

AWPA urges the Melanesian Spearhead Group leaders to respond compassionately and courageously to the application from the United Liberation Movement of West Papua (ULMWP) by granting them full membership at the MSG summit later this month.

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