November 12 is the 22nd anniversary of the Santa Cruz massacre. 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.
As we have often noted, the media coverage of the massacre was a key turning point in Timor's long struggle for independence. It led to the founding of ETAN and similar groups, energize UN and Portuguese diplomacy, and led to some sanctions on Indonesia. In the U.S., ETAN built on the initial cut-off of military training for the Indonesian military. Eventually, all military assistance was cut off in 1999 as Indonesian troops and militia ransacked the Timor in the aftermath of the historic vote that led to independence.
On the 20th anniversary of the massacre ETAN observed that:
"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 East Timorese and Indonesian people from consolidating their democracies and moving on with their lives."
Much remains to be done. A year ago, we noted that:
"Impunity for decades of systematic Indonesian military and police atrocities prevents both countries from consolidating the rule of law as they transition from military dictatorship do democracy."
We continued to to urge the U.S. Congress and the Obama administration to respond to the recommendations of Timor-Leste's Commission for Truth, Reception and Reconciliation, especially "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 Indonesian military."
And we urged the U.S. and others to press Indonesia "to immediately release all information that can help identify and locate those who were killed or disappeared during the occupation,."