The Biak Massacre Citizens Tribunal

  • Print

The Biak Massacre – 15 Year Anniversary
The Citizens Tribunal for the 15th Anniversary of the Biak Massacre was held on Saturday July 6th at the University of Sydney.

The verdict on the massacre was released in December 16, 2013.

Full Video Footage from the Tribunal is available.


Human Rights Watch sent an undercover researcher to investigate the Biak massacre, and other violence by Indonesian security forces in West Papua in 1998. This initial report uncovers many key facts, but also leaves gaps.

Visit the Biak Massacre Citizens Tribunal website

"From July 2 to July 6, when the military opened fire, the morning star flag flew over the thirty-five-meter-tall water tower near the harbor in Biak town. (Biak is the name of the island, the district, and the district capital.) The demonstration was led by a Jayapura-based provincial government employee named Filip Yopy Karma...The flag appeared on the top of the tower on July 2, at about 5:00 a.m. Some seventy-five people gathered beneath it, shouting freedom slogans, singing songs and dancing traditional dances. Some had painted their faces and
arms with the morning star symbol, and as the demonstration continued, many people in the immediate area joined in. The water tower is near both the main taxi terminal and a major market, so the site is one that many people would pass as part of their daily lives. Small boys reportedly guarded the area wearing armbands that said "Satgas [task force] OPM." The demonstration grew to more than 500 people by one account" (1998: 6).

Video testimony: Filep Karma--The Biak Massacre: A Citizens Tribunal from Biak Tribunal on Vimeo.

"At 1:00 a.m. on July 4, the local military brought nine village heads together to discuss a strategy for attack, and both the subdistrict head (camat) and the subdistrict military commander told the village heads that each man was responsible for bringing thirty men into the city. He also told them that the district commander's instructions were that each man should bring a weapon of some sort, whether a spear, a knife, or some other sharp object" (1998: 8).

"The long-awaited attack took place at 5:00 a.m. on July 6. Troops from Battalion 733 Pattimura, stationed at the air force base at Manuhua aided local forces, and were reinforced by troops from two warships...The troops opened fire from four sides. Witnesses reported that five civilians who were already on the ground prone were deliberately shot. By 9:00 a.m., twenty-one
people had been brought to the hospital, one of whom, Ruben Orboi, died about an hour later in the hospital's emergency room; he had been shot in the head. A month later, his body had still not been turned over to his family" (1998: 9).

"In the meantime, thirty-three bodies of men, women, and children washed up on the shore of East and North Biak beginning on July 27. The Indonesian army claimed they were victims of the tsunami that struck Aitepe, Papua New Guinea on July 16. There were unconfirmed reports from local people that some of the bodies had their hands tied behind their backs, and one was wearing a Golkar T-shirt, giving rise to the belief that at least some of the bodies might be those of shooting victims... Six bodies, including an adult male, three adult females, an adolescent girl, and a girl estimated to be about four years old, were found in East Biak on July 27 and immediately buried by security forces. The bodies were in poor condition, but police said that some were marked with a tattoo that resembled the letter W.

Nine more bodies washed up the next day. Of the six found in Amini village, five were children (three boys and two girls), and one was an adult woman wearing a shell necklace. A body of a girl estimated to be about twelve years old was found in Nyampun, Orwer village, and two other headless bodies were found on Paidado island, near the villages of Pasi and Saribra...On July 29, the body of an adult male was found in Yobdi, North Biak, and that of a young girl was found near Wadibu, East Biak" (1998: 10).