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30 Years On Justice for Timorese Remains Elusive

ETAN Says That It Is Never Too Late to Hold Accountable Those Responsible for Santa Cruz Massacre

On the 30th anniversary of the Santa Cruz massacre, the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) urges the international community to end impunity for the human rights crimes committed during the occupation of Timor-Leste.

"The Santa Cruz massacre is among the most notorious crimes committed by Indonesia during its illegal occupation of Timor-Leste and has waited too long for justice," said John M. Miller, National Coordinator of ETAN.

"Those responsible for the massacre and for the many other crimes against humanity during Indonesia's illegal occupation need to be held accountable for their crimes."

On November 12, 1991, U.S.-armed Indonesian troops shot hundreds of peaceful demonstrators calling for self-determination and protesting atrocities committed by the Indonesian military. More than 271 East Timorese were killed on the spot or died soon after and an equal number disappeared and are believed to be dead.

The 1991 massacre was a major turning point in Timor-Leste's struggle for liberation. Indonesia's assault was witnessed and filmed by foreign journalists. The eyewitness accounts of U.S.-based Allan Nairn and Amy Goodman, photographer Steve Cox, and filmmaker Max Stahl (who died recently, see below) countered Indonesia propaganda and inspired the formation of dozens of grassroots groups worldwide - including ETAN - to support Timor's self-determination.

During more than two decades of U.S.-backed occupation, 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.

"The East Timorese people still need to know where the bodies of their relatives and friends are," said Miller. "Impunity for decades of systematic Indonesian military and police atrocities prevents both Timor-Leste and Indonesia from respecting human rights and consolidating the rule of law.

In recent years, Indonesia has increasingly violated human rights including stepped up military action in West Papua and the harassment of human rights defenders and environmental and anti-corruption activists.

"The U.S and other governments that armed and trained Indonesia's security forces during the Suharto dictatorship, now actively pursue business-as-usual with Indonesia leaving no room for genuine accountability for their collusion with Timor's oppression," Miller added.

Perpetrators from countries such as the United States, Britain, and Australia that actively aided in these crimes by providing weapons, training, and political support have yet to be held accountable.

For more on the Santa Cruz massacre see ETAN's backgrounder here:

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