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The Santa Cruz Massacre
November 12, 1991

"When film footage of the massacre at Santa Cruz*. was broadcast to audiences around the world it provoked a significant international outcry against the practices of the Indonesian military in Timor-Leste.... However, ... even in the face of strong international demands to bring those who had killed unarmed demonstrators to account, the institutional practices of ABRI/TNI provided the majority of perpetrators who were most responsible with effective impunity."
-- Chega! Final Report of the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation in East Timor (CAVR)
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25th Anniversary of Santa Cruz Massacre ETAN Urges Justice for Victims of the Santa Cruz Massacre on 25th Anniversary

ETAN BACKGROUNDER: Santa Cruz Massacre (November 2016)

LH: Remembering the Santa Cruz Massacre, the Movement seeks Justice and Equality by Celestino Gusmão, a member of the Organizasaun Sagrada Família and ANTI. He works for La’o Hamutuk.

From ETAN's Blog: 25 years after the Santa Cruz massacre: did corporations influence Western government policy? by David Webster
TLPres: Speech Speech by President Taur Matan Ruak on the 25th Anniversary of the Santa Cruz massacre

Timor Archives: Remembering the Santa Cruz Massacre  guide to recent commentary and some archival resources on this landmark event

Timor-Leste Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao and Fretilin leader Mari Alkatiri at Santa Cruz cemetery, Nov. 12, 2013. Photo via Facebook.

From ETAN's Blog: ETAN on anniversary of Santa Cruz massacre (November 11, 2013)

ANTI: Truth and Justice are the foundations for developing democracy in Timor-Leste - Joint Declaration Commemoration of the Santa Cruz Massacre (November 12, 2013)

UN Meets on Anniversary of Massacre: ETAN Urges UN and U.S. to Act for Justice for Timor-Leste (November 12, 2012)

ANTI/Amnesty International: Tackling Impunity in Timor-Leste and Indonesia: Justice Is the Only Way, Statement to Commemorate November 12, 2012

On 20th Anniversary of Timor Massacre, Rights Network Urges Justice, ETAN Says U.S. and UN Must Act (November 12, 2011)

News report on Santa Cruz massacre

On November 12, 1991, Indonesian troops fired upon a peaceful memorial procession to a cemetery in Dili, East Timor that had turned into a pro-independence demonstration. More than 271 East Timorese were killed that day at the Santa Cruz cemetery or in hospitals soon after. An equal number were disappeared and are believed dead. This massacre, unlike many others which occurred during the course of Indonesia's U.S.-backed occupation, was filmed and photographed by international journalists. Amy Goodman and Allan Nairn, two U.S. reporters, were beaten during the massacre.

The Santa Cruz Massacre sparked the international solidarity movement for East Timor, including the founding of the East Timor Action Network, and was the catalyst for congressional action to stem the flow of U.S. weapons and other military assistance for Indonesia’s brutal security forces. Ali Alatas, former foreign minister of Indonesia, called the massacre a "turning point," which set in motion the events leading to East Timor's coming independence.

The people of East Timor now have their freedom and are an independent nation, but they have yet to see justice for decades human rights crimes inflicted on their people and country by the Indonesian military.

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Background and More

ETAN BACKGROUNDER: Santa Cruz Massacre (November 2016)

ETAN Urges Justice for Victims of the Santa Cruz Massacre on 25th Anniversary (November 2016)

Read what East Timor's truth commission (CAVR) said about the massacre (PDF) (see pages 199-229)

Thousands 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.

Remembering the Santa Cruz Massacre: A guide to recent commentary and some archival resources on this landmark event (November 2011)

ETAN's Charles Scheiner reflects on Santa Cruz massacre and solidarity (November 12, 2011)

The Age: Graves May Give Answers To Dili Massacre, also East Timor: Massacres and Miracles by Shirley Shackleton (April 2009)

ANTI: Chega Debate Points to the Cemetery Where the Santa Cruz Massacre Occurred (November 12, 2008)

Timorese families saddened by fruitless mass grave hunt (September 1, 2008)
In search of a mass grave near Dili (August 2008)
Spirits of the dead summoned to heal old wounds (August 2008)
In search of a mass grave near Dili (August 2008)

Timor's mass graves to be excavated (February 18, 2008)
Hope in hunt for graves of East Timor massacre (December 22, 2007)

Knowing Where the Bodies Are Buried. The Indonesian Generals -- and Putin -- Laugh, Allan Nairn (December 03, 2007)

Concern: Remembering the Santa Cruz massacre (Nov. 2007)

15th Anniversary of Massacre

ETAN: On 15th Anniversary of Timor Massacre Rights Network Calls for Justice; ETAN Urges Administration, New Congress to Support International Tribunal

Fifteen Years Later East Timor Massacre Victims Still Waiting for Justice By Ben Terrall and John M. Miller

Democracy Now!: 15 Years After East Timor Massacre, Calls for Accountability Continue (November 13th, 2006) Audio and video

The Wire: East Timor 15 years on from the Dili massacre   Produced by Erica Vowles  (November 13th, 2006) Audio

Casualties of the November 12, 1991 Massacre at Santa Cruz Cemetery in Dili, East Timor

These lists were compiled by the Portuguese solidarity group "A Paz e Possivel em Timor-Leste" (Peace is Possible in East Timor). It was published in leading Portuguese newspapers in November, 1992. Jose Ramos-Horta described how the data was obtained:

"... has been compiled by 12 teams of East Timorese students, school teachers, priests, nuns, nurses, paramedics, hospital staff, workers a the morgues, totaling 72 researchers, working round the clock for three months, interviewing household members in each "bairro," immediately after 12 November 1991.

The preliminary report reached Lisbon in February and was handed over to two specialist groups in Portugal that have been investigating human rights abuses in East Timor for more than 10 years. A copy was channeled to Amnesty International for independent verification.

It took six months for mass of the detailed information sent from East Timor to be processed and analyzed. The researchers took extreme care in double-checking each piece of information."

Santa Cruz demonstrators  

Eyewitness Accounts

STL: Domingos Barreto jailed just for being at 12 November 1991 Demo (May 2008)

Amy Goodman's radio documentary Massacre: The Story of East Timor

Back From the Dead - a survivor interviewed

Senate Testimony of Allan Nairn - witness to the Santa Cruz massacre.

Excerpt from East Timor’s Unfinished Struggle: Inside the Timorese Resistance by Constâncio Pinto and Matthew Jardine

Interview with Max Stahl

In 2005, EAAF carried out a preliminary mission to East Timor to begin an investigation into the Santa Cruz massacre of 1991 (PDF)

In 1994, a U.S. court issued a $14 million judgment against  General Sintong Panjaitan for his role in the massacre.

Tenth Anniversary of Santa Cruz Massacre Prompts Calls for Justice for East Timor

IndyMedia: East Timor Activists Reflect on 10th Anniversary of Santa Cruz Massacre (2001)

Coverage of 10th Anniversary of Santa Cruz Massacre

Congressional Letters on 10th Anniversary of Santa Cruz Massacre: House; Senate (11/29/01)

Death of an Activist - Kamal Bhamadhaj (May 2000)

A Mother’s Lament at the Ninth Anniversary of the Santa Cruz Massacre (and other video from the 9th anniversary remembrance events)

John Pilger on the massacre with photo and film clip

Amy Goodman, Democracy Now!  and the Santa Cruz Massacre


Photos from November 1998 re-enactment

More on Justice and Human Rights page

Order video & audio documentaries with footage of the massacre




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