On 20th Anniversary of Timor Massacre, Rights Network Urges Justice
ETAN Says U.S. and UN Must Act
For Immediate Release
Contact: John M. Miller,
+1-718-596-7668; mobile: +1-917-690-4391, firstname.lastname@example.org
November 12, 2011 - On the 20th anniversary of the
infamous massacre at Santa Cruz cemetery
in Timor-Leste, the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network
(ETAN) called for the U.S. and other governments and the United Nations
to commit to justice for the victims and their families. The 1991
massacre -- witnessed and filmed by foreign journalists -- was a major
turning point in Timor-Leste's struggle for liberation.
"When we saw and heard about the Indonesian military shooting down
hundreds of peaceful, unarmed student protesters, we knew we had to do
something to stop the killing. The Santa Cruz massacre inspired many
around the world to work for justice for the East Timorese people," said
John M. Miller, National Coordinator of ETAN. "It directly led to the
founding of ETAN in the United States, and to our commitment to work for
self-determination for Timor-Leste by changing U.S. government policies
which had supported the Indonesia's illegal invasion and occupation."
"Justice for all those killed, tortured, raped and forced to flee
Indonesia’s brutal occupation has been delayed too long," he added.
in Timor-Leste are focused on learning the location of their relatives’
graves. The remains of many of the victims have not been found.
“While Timor-Leste is now independent, its people will not be able to
overcome their tragic past without knowing what was done with their
relatives’ and friends’ bodies. Ongoing impunity for decades of
systematic Indonesian military and police atrocities keeps the Timorese
and Indonesian people from consolidating their democracies and moving on
with their lives,” said Miller. "ETAN will not rest until justice is
When we saw and heard about the
Indonesian military shooting down hundreds of peaceful, unarmed student
protesters, we knew we had to do something to stop the killing.
urged Congress and the Obama administration to respond to the
recommendations of Timor-Leste's Commission for Truth, Reception and
Reconciliation, including its calls for an international tribunal to try
perpetrators of crimes against humanity during the Indonesian
occupation, reparations from Indonesia and other countries that
supported the occupation, and restrictions on foreign assistance to the
"President Obama should urge President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to
immediately release all information that can help identify and locate
those who were disappeared during the occupation,” said Miller. The two
leaders are scheduled to meet in the coming weeks.
"Obama must restrict U.S. military assistance until the Indonesian
generals and political leaders who organized and directed numerous
crimes during the 24-years of illegal occupation are credibly tried,"
commemorated the 17th anniversary of the Santa
Cruz massacre with a march from the Motael
Church to the Santa Cruz cemetery in Dili. Many
mourners carried photographs of loved ones who
died or who disappeared on 12 November 1991.
UNMIT Photo/Martine Perret.
On November 12, 1991, Indonesian troops opened fire on a memorial
procession - turned into a peaceful pro-independence demonstration - at
the Santa Cruz cemetery in Dili, the capital of Timor-Leste. More than
270 mostly-young Timorese were murdered. Unlike previous mass atrocities
committed during Indonesia's 24-year occupation, the massacre was
witnessed by the NY-based
Amy Goodman and
Allan Nairn and other international journalists. Their first-hand
reports, video and photographs were shown worldwide. The Santa Cruz
massacre galvanized international support for Timor-Leste and was the
catalyst for congressional action to stem the flow of U.S. weapons and
other assistance for Indonesia’s security forces.
The response from people across
the United States to the U.S. government’s complicity in the oppression of the
East Timorese – was so compelling that they had to keep working. One year
later, grassroots pressure persuaded the U.S. Congress to terminate
taxpayer-funded training for Indonesian soldiers in the United States.
month after the massacre, on International Human Rights Day (December
10), a few dozen concerned people picketed in front of the Indonesian
Mission to the United Nations in New York City. Although they did not
intend to start an ongoing movement, the Timorese cause – and the
response from people across the United States to the government’s
complicity in the oppression of the East Timorese – was so compelling
that they had to keep working. One year later, grassroots pressure
persuaded the U.S. Congress to terminate taxpayer-funded training for
Indonesian soldiers in the United States, the first of many legislative
victories which eventually moved Washington from supporting to opposing
the murderous occupation.
ANTI (Timor-Leste National Alliance for an International Tribunal),
demanded that the United Nations Security Council "cut the chain of
impunity in Timor-Leste and other countries' by establishing a credible
International Tribunal in order to judge the principal perpetrators of
serious crimes and crimes against humanity in Timor-Leste during the
During more than two decades of occupation of Timor-Leste, Indonesian
soldiers committed serious crimes with impunity, taking as many as
184,000 Timorese lives and torturing, raping and displacing countless
others. Timor-Leste became independent in 2002.
Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation
researched and documented the nation’s experiences during the
occupation. The Commission’s comprehensive 2,500-page report recommended
establishment of an international criminal tribunal and also advocated
that countries (including the U.S.) which backed the occupation and
corporations which sold weapons to Indonesia during that period should
pay reparations to victims. The Commission urged the international
community not to support Indonesia's military until it was thoroughly
reformed and respectful of human rights.
Indonesia has agreed to provide information about the fate of the
disappeared but has failed to do so. The joint Timor-Leste-Indonesia
Commission on Truth and Friendship recommended the creation of a
Commission for Disappeared Persons "to acquire information about the
fate of disappeared people and cooperate to gather data and provide
information to their families." Work on this issue has been repeatedly
thwarted by Indonesia.
ETAN was formed in reaction to the Santa Cruz massacre. The U.S.-based
organization, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this December 10,
advocates for democracy, justice and human rights for Timor-Leste and
Indonesia. For more information on the massacre see
or ETAN's web site:
Human Rights & Justice
ETAN's Charles Scheiner reflects on Santa Cruz
massacre and solidarity
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15th Anniversary of Timor Massacre Rights Network Calls for Justice;
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