Interactive Map Places of memory related
to serious human rights violations

The 12 November March

Theme: Political persecution


Cemetery of Santa Cruz







Theme: Political persecution

Purpose of Memory

To honor protesters killed on 12 November 1991 in the Santa Cruz cemetery.

Known Designation

The 12 November March

Date of creation / identification / declaration


Public Access


Location description

This is a march where people walk the same route that protesters killed in Dili on 12 November 1991 walked, from the Motael Church to the Santa Cruz cemetery. There, speeches are made and floral offerings are left on the victims’ graves.

With the excuse of fighting against colonialism, in 1975, the Indonesian army invaded East Timor and overthrew the government, unleashing a violent occupation that lasted until 2002 and claimed the lives of more than 60 thousand Timorese people.

In October 1991, during the visit of the UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatments or punishments, Peter Kooijmans, a delegation consisting of members of the Portuguese Parliament and twelve journalists failed to investigate serious violations in East Timor. Tensions between Indonesian authorities and young people from East Timor were on the rise during the days after the cancellation of the commission.

On 28 October, Indonesian troops found a group of members of the resistance at Dili’s Motael Church. During the confrontation, several people were killed, including independentist Sebastião Gomes. On 12 November 1991, many Timorese people attended mass in memory of Sebastião Gomes. It was the biggest and most visible protest against the Indonesian occupation since 1975. A few minutes after protesters arrived at the Santa Cruz cemetery, security forces opened fire. The ¡Chega! (“enough” in Portuguese) report of the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation registered 271 dead people, 250 missing and hundreds of people injured. In 1999, the Portuguese and Indonesian governments agreed to hold a public consultation, under the supervision of the United Nations. On 20 May 2002, East Timor gained its full independence.

The 1991 Santa Cruz massacre was a turning point in the fight for the self-determination of East Timor. In 1998 the first march to commemorate it was organized. In 2008, the Komite 12 Novembru (12 November Committee) organization was created, to safeguard the families and survivors of the massacre. The Committee also helps localize, exhume, identify and rebury the victims. The Committee organized the 12 November March where hundreds of people, with pictures of the victims, walk the same route that protesters walked in 1991 across Dili. During the march, people sing songs of the time when they were fighting for independence and lay flowers on the victims’ graves. The activities include speeches, conferences and concerts.

Since 2005, 12 November is a holiday that ends with speeches given by the country’s highest political authorities. On 12 November 2012, a monument to honor the victims was unveiled.

Organization in Charge - Main Referent

12 November Committee