Documents: Santa Cruz Massacre – 30 years on

An international online symposium will mark the 30th anniversary of the infamous but history-changing 12 November 1991 Santa Cruz Massacre in Dili. We introduce here one Australian set of Santa Cruz-related documents and seek further contributions towards an online archives exhibition for the forthcoming symposium.

The death toll in the 1991 Santa Cruz Massacre remains contested, but this contemporary Indonesian cartoon got the aftermath right: Santa Cruz caused a dramatic and permanent increase in international scrutiny of the Indonesian military occupation of East Timor.

An International Research Symposium about the 1991 Santa Cruz Massacre will be held on 9-10 November 2021. The event is being organised by the Timor-Leste Studies Association and Timor’s Centro Nasional Chega! See more details in the TLSA’s  call for papers.

In support of the symposium, CHART proposed an exhibition of internationally-held archival materials about Santa Cruz. With the concurrence of Prof. David Webster in Canada, this exhibition will be mounted on his ever-expanding Timor Solidarity Archive (TiSA).

Digital copies of Santa Cruz-related documents are being sought from individuals and institutions internationally, to add to the online exhibition.

Please contact or send materials to David Webster (dwebster[AT]ubishops[DOT]ca).

ACFOA Human Rights Office Collection

The Santa Cruz files of the internationally-known Australian Council for Overseas Aid Human Rights Office have been added to TiSA to start building the exhibition.

The files are copies of working papers of the Office and its director, Pat Walsh. The files include some key documentary sources about Santa Cruz, but also show the day-to-day notes and communications of just one of the many active centres of Timor solidarity and advocacy which burst into new or renewed activity in mid-November 1991.

Other collections will need to be added to TiSA to show the full range of surviving documentary materials about this important moment in Timor-Leste’s tortuous path to independence.

Click here to view the ACFOA Human Rights Office Santa Cruz folders on TiSA.

See below for a small sample of individual items selected from the original 32 folders of documents.



‘New time bomb is ticking’. Newsclip 14 October 1990

This article notes the rise of public dissent by East Timorese youth in Dili a full year before the Santa Cruz events.

View other documents in the folder.


Motael Church killings, 28 October 1991

Bishop Belo’s statement of facts regarding his findings about the deaths of Sebastião Gomes and Afonso at Motael Church in the early-morning hours.

View other documents in this folder.


Eye-witness account of Santa Cruz events, 15 November 1991

Transcript of media conference given by Australian aid worker, Bob Muntz, who was injured during his escape from the massacre area.

View other eye-witness accounts in this folder.


Australian Foreign Minister’s statement to Parliament, 26 November 1991

Senator Gareth Evans prompted public criticism for describing the massacre as ‘abberant behaviour’ by the Indonesian military.

View other documents in this folder.


Indonesian Catholic Bishops Conference statement, 28 November 1991

Statements and questions from Konperensi Waligereja Indonesia after two visits to Dili by KWI representatives in late November.

View other documents in this folder.


Dossier: International media coverage, November-December 1991

A selection of Australian and international media items about Santa Cruz, issued by the East Timor Talks Campaign in Australia.

View whole dossier / folder.


Indonesia’s Legal Aid Institute report, January 1992

LBH, Indonesia’s long-standing human rights organisation, calls on the Indonesian government to act truthfully and fairly on Santa Cruz matters.

View other documents in this folder.


Berita Timur Timor update, 09 January 1992

An Indonesian NGO update on the legal proceedings facing East Timorese being detained in Jakarta following Santa Cruz. Includes the names of the detainees.

View other documents in this folder.


Juan Federer Jakarta interviews, January/February 1992

A fascinating insight into the Timor views and attitudes of well-connected Indonesians after Santa Cruz.

View other documents in this folder.


Amnesty International report, 06 February 1992

Amnesty concluded that the Indonesian-created National Commission of Inquiry on Santa Cruz was fatally flawed and its conclusions were unacceptable.

View other documents in this folder.


Asia Watch report, 23 June 1992

Asia Watch summarises and critically assesses legal proceedings taken against members of the Indonesian military for their roles in the Santa Cruz massacre.

View other documents in this folder. 


See also:

CHART’s 2011 guide to sources on the Santa Cruz Massacre.

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