Dutch state must pay damages for Indonesia colonial killings

Dutch King Willem apologised to Indonesia on March 10, 2020, in Jakarta during a state visit to the country, for ‘excessive violence’ during the former colony’s independence struggle in the 1940s. — AFP pic
Dutch King Willem apologised to Indonesia on March 10, 2020, in Jakarta during a state visit to the country, for ‘excessive violence’ during the former colony’s independence struggle in the 1940s. — AFP pic

THE HAGUE, March 25 — The Dutch state must pay compensation to relatives of 11 men executed by colonial troops during Indonesia’s independence war in the late 1940s, judges ruled today.

The Hague District Court ordered the state to pay damages ranging from €10,000 (RM47,400) to €123 to eight widows and four children of the men, who were killed in southern Sulawesi between 1946 to 1947.

It is the first time specific amounts have been awarded despite Dutch courts hearing a slew of similar cases, the claimants’ lawyer Liesbeth Zegveld said.

“The court considers it proven that eleven men have been killed as a result of misbehaviour of Dutch soldiers. Most cases involved summary executions,” the judges said.

The highest amount was paid to a man who as a 10-year-old saw his father being killed, the court’s spokeswoman Judge Jeanette Honee said.

Widows of the men also received damages of up to €3,600 but claimants who were children received less, depending on their ages at the time of the killings.

The Dutch judges based the relatively low amounts on the income earned by the men, which it said were around €100 per year at the time.

“The court recognises that these low amounts are disproportionate to the pain and sorrow that the executions of husbands and fathers have undeniably caused to widows and children,” the court said in a statement.

“The amounts awarded do not intend to provide for this, only material damage in the form of lost livelihood.”

Dutch courts are hearing several other cases of relatives asking for compensation for atrocities committed by Dutch colonial troops during so-called cleansing actions to root out Indonesian freedom fighters.

At least 860 men were killed by firing squads, mostly between December 1946 and April 1947 in Sulawesi, then called Celebes.

The Dutch government apologised in 2013 for the killings carried out by its colonial army and announced compensation to the widows of those who died.

Two weeks ago, Dutch King Willem-Alexander also apologised — the first by a Dutch monarch — for “excessive violence” during the former colony’s fight for independence.

Indonesia declared independence on August 17, 1945 following a brief wartime occupation by the Japanese and several hundred years as a Dutch colony. — AFP

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