Dutch war crime in Indonesia

This video from Indonesia says about itself:

Rawagede Victims’ widows gathered in the Netherlands embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia.

From Dutch daily NRC Handelsblad of today; translation from the Dutch language edition by me; as the English language section, which the NRC Handelsblad web site has since a few days, has no translation of this frontpage article:

[Headline, only in the paper edition: War crimes

Indonesians, after 61 years, demand apology from the Netherlands]

‘Then, they started a countdown…’

Published: 17 september 2008 15:26 | Edited: 17 september 2008 15:32

By our correspondent Elske Schouten

Ten survivors of the bloodbath in the Indonesian village Rawagede (1947) still say the Netherlands should acknowledge its responsibility for it. They demand money and an apology.

Balongsari, 17 sept. „I had never thought that they were going to murder us, as we were common people”, Saih tells. „I only started realizing it when they started a countdown.” In Dutch, he counts „Eén, twee, drie… [One, two, three]”. Three soldiers started firing at the men from behind.

According to the counting by the village, they shot and killed nearly all male villagers, 431 people. During executions without trial, as they were running away or were hiding in the river.

Saih, now far over eighty years old, is one of ten survivors and family members who, 61 years after this, ask for an apology and compensation for the bloodbath which Dutch soldiers caused on 9 December 1947 in Rawagede.

More about the Rawagede bloodbath, in Dutch, here.

UPDATE: Dutch state found liable for 1947 Indonesia massacre: here.

13 thoughts on “Dutch war crime in Indonesia

  1. Dear Sirs and Madams,

    please kindly find below the article in NRC Handelsblad regarding the massacre of Rawagede on December 7, 1947, and the statement from Mr. Harry van Bommel and Mrs. Krista van Velzen, Dutch Members of Parliament, regarding the compensation for the widows of the victims of Rawagede, that I have received on October 10, 2008, from Mr. Harry van Bommel.

    I met Mrs Krista van Velzen at the Netherlands Parliament in The Hague on April 22, 2008.

    To know more about Rawagede and the petition to the Dutch Government, please visit:

    http://indonesiadutch.blogspot.com (languages: Dutch, English, German)


    http://batarahutagalung.blogspot.com (language: Indonesian)

    Petition-online to the Dutch government (April 22, 2005):

    http://www.petitiononline.com/brh41244/petition.html (languages: English, Indonesian)

    Best regards,

    Batara R Hutagalung

    Chairman of the Committee of Dutch Honorary Debts.

    Komite Utang Kehormatan Belanda (KUKB)



    Survivors of massacre demand compensation

    Published: 18 September 2008 12:54 | Changed: 18 September 2008 17:51

    By our Indonesia correspondent Elske Schouten

    Relatives and survivors of a massacre in the Indonesian village of Rawagede in 1947 are demanding an apology and compensation from the Dutch government. Indonesia was a Dutch colony in the 1800s and was finally granted sovereignty in 1949 after an armed struggle.

    “I never thought they would kill us because we were just ordinary people,” says Saih. “I only realised [what they were going to do] when they began the countdown… Een, twee, drie.” Three soldiers started shooting the men in the back.

    According to the village, the soldiers shot dead all the men – 431 people. It was summary justice, meted out as the men were running away or hiding in the river. In 1969, an investigation by the Dutch government into war crimes in Indonesia says 150 were killed in Rawagede.

    Saih, now in his late 80s, is one of the 10 survivors and relatives who, 61 years later, are asking for an apology and compensation for the massacre in the Indonesian village of Rawagede carried out by Dutch soldiers on December 9, 1947.

    Last week lawyer Gerrit Jan Pulles and Comité Nederlandse Ereschulden, a foundation which represents civilian victims of Dutch colonial rule in Indonesia, said the Dutch government must accept responsibility for the massacre at Rawagede.


    Just like many other men, Saih, who sold vegetables, hid in the river when the Dutch arrived. His body under the water, his head in a hole he dug in the river bed. But the soldiers’ four tracker dogs found him. His companion shouted “merdeka” (independence) and was shot. Saih gave himself up and went with the soldiers.

    It was raining hard on that day in December 1947. The village of Rawagede was flooded. The Dutch soldiers were looking for Lukas Kustario, an Indonesian freedom fighter, but he had left the day before.

    The men who were actually doing the shooting did not look Dutch, says Saih. They had dark skins. Two white Dutchmen watched. Saih was hit in the back, but the bullet had first passed through the son of the village chief so has lost some of its velocity.

    Pretended to be dead

    When the boy’s body fell on him, Saih pretended to be dead too. During the final salvo, Saih was hit in the arm. But he was still alive and when the soldiers left, he fled.

    Batara Hutagalung, chairman of the Comité Nederlandse Ereschulden, became interested in the war crimes committed in Indonesia at the end of the 1990s when he read his father’s unpublished memoires, he says.

    He read about the bombing of Surabaya in 1945 by the English who were helping the Dutch get back their colony. An estimated 20,000 people died. “It was the first time I was confronted with what happened back then,” says Hutagalung, who lived in Germany until 1992. “In Germany the Nazis were tried and tracked down as far as South America. I wondered why that didn’t happen here.”

    The foundation has successfully asked for an apology and compensation from the British government for the Surabaya bombing.

    Dutch government obstinate

    Hutagalung then began working on the Rawagede case. But until now the Dutch government has been “obstinate”, he says. The fact that former foreign affairs minister Ben Bot expressed his “regret” for the violence in 2005 is not enough, he says. “Regret is not an apology. I don’t understand why it’s so difficult to say sorry.”

    Today Rawagede is called Balongsari. It has a large memorial to the victims of the massacre. The river where Saih hid is now a thin stream full of rubbish. Balongsari is a colourful village thanks to its pretty coloured houses built by the villagers with money earned by many of the women who work temporarily in the Middle East. But according to its chief, the village is still poor. Most of its 3,000 inhabitants work on the land or make prawn crackers.

    Piles of corpses

    In one of the houses, lives the 86-year-old Tijeng. Mattresses are everywhere, 15 people from five generations live here. Tijeng was breastfeeding her daughter when her husband Nimong tried to flee from the Dutch.

    He did not get far, he was captured and shot dead. Three days later Tijeng searched piles of corpses, looking for his body.

    When Tijeng sees a baby, she remembers how helpless she felt then. “I didn’t know what to do. I had a baby. I couldn’t work.”

    Saih and Tijeng do not know the details of their claim. They have merely given a fingerprint and had their photos taken. They are no longer angry with the Dutch. But compensation would be welcome.

    Tijeng has no money for treatment on the swelling in her ear which is beginning to affect her sight too.

    And Saih says: “It doesn’t have to be much. Just a small amount for a decent life until I die, and to give my children and grandchildren a better life.”


    Compensate the victims of Rawagedéh

    This week a delegation of Dutch Members of Parliament is visiting Indonesia. The biggest opposition group,.the Socialist Party (SP), will also participate in this delegation. In our view, while it is of the utmost importance that the Netherlands and Indonesia have good relations with each other, this can only be achieved via the recognition, at the same time, of mistakes made in the past. In this respect the expression of regret by former Foreign Minister Ben Bot, regarding the military actions of 1945-1949, represents an important step forward. But this must not stop at such a declaration. A gesture must be made towards the people who suffered as a result of this war which in the Netherlands was referred to, completely incorrectly, as a series of “policing actions”. Compensation must be offered to the victims of mass murder during this war, and to their descendants. This would principally involve ordinary citizens, including women and children, who were put to death in the course of serious breaches of human rights committed by Dutch soldiers. In the first place we are thinking of the village of Rawagedéh in Java, where in December of 1947 hundreds of people were murdered. Dutch soldiers were responsible for these extra-judicial executions. Given the fact that there is no statute of limitations for war crimes, it is strange that these soldiers have never been prosecuted. The Dutch government has never made any kind of gesture towards these families, neither in writing, nor in face-to-face meetings, nor in any other fashion. So it was completely unexpected when, in December 2007, the Dutch ambassador, sixty years after the event, was present at the commemoration of this bloodbath. This form of recognition of guilt over the Netherlands’ responsibility for these crimes is, in our opinion, not sufficient. The Dutch government must be prepared to express its official regret to the descendants of the victims of Rawagedéh and to pay them compensation throughout the rest of their lives. My party proposed this in parliament last winter. Unfortunately our resolution did not win the support of a majority. We therefore welcome the fact that recently some of the survivors have announced that they will bring a legal action before the Dutch courts. We hope that compensation for the victims of Rawagedéh can provide the beginning for a thoroughgoing reconciliation process with the victims of the colonial war unjustly fought by the Netherlands.

    Harry van Bommel and Krista van Velzen are Members of the Dutch Parliament for the Socialist Party.


  2. Massacre survivors snubbed by Dutch delegation

    Published: 14 October 2008 15:43 | Changed: 14 October 2008 15:46

    By Elske Schouten in Jakarta

    Dutch members of parliament on an official visit to Indonesia have refused to meet survivors of a massacre by Dutch soldiers in 1947. The leader of the delegation says it would be “inappropriate”.

    * Feature – Survivors of massacre demand compensation

    The Indonesian village of Rawagede was the scene of a massacre perpetrated by Dutch soldiers in 1947, shortly after the colony declared its independence and troops were sent in to restore order.

    The village claims 431 men were shot, while a Dutch government investigation into war crimes in Indonesia puts the figure at 150.

    Voted down

    One man who survived the massacre and nine widows of victims still live in the village, which has been renamed Balongsari. Last week, a letter was sent on their behalf to the Dutch government asking for a formal apology and compensation. Their request is still being looked at.

    Socialist Party member of parliament Harry van Bommel says he suggested a meeting with survivors twice but that the proposal was voted down by the rest of the delegation.

    The delegation, made up of seven members of the parliamentary foreign affairs committee, is in Indonesia to discuss a range of issues until October 19.

    Delegation chairman Henk Jan Ormel, member of parliament for the Christian Democrats, says he feels a meeting with the survivors, or their representatives, would be ‘inappropriate” while legal procedures are still ongoing.

    False expectations

    “A visit from an official Dutch delegation could create false expectations”, Ormel said, adding that he did not want Rawagede to become the focus of the visit to Indonesia. “A lot more has happened in this country,” he said.

    Van Bommel, who feels the Netherlands should apologise and pay compensation, had wanted a “reconciliatory meeting”. “It would have been the first Dutch high-level visit,” he says. “For the survivors of Rawagede, this is far from over.”

    The members of the delegation did not want to meet Batara Hutagalung, founder of the committee which filed the claim for compensation, either. Hutagalung says he finds it “odd” for parliamentarians to come to Indonesia to talk about human rights and not pay any attention to Rawagede.

    “It is almost as if they are blind in one eye: they only see the atrocities perpetrated by others,” he said.


  3. Dutch state liable over Indonesia massacre

    Wednesday, 14 September 2011 10:00

    By Agencies

    A Dutch court has ordered the government to compensate the widows of seven villagers who were summarily executed and a man shot and wounded in a notorious massacre during Indonesia’s bloody battle for independence from colonial rule.

    The Hague Civil Court ruled on Wednesday it was “unreasonable” for the government to argue that the widows were not entitled to compensation because the statute of limitations had expired.

    According to Indonesian researchers, Dutch troops wiped out almost the entire male population of Rawagede, a village in West Java, two years before the former colony declared independence in 1949.

    “Justice has been done,” said Liesbeth Zegveld, lawyer for the plaintiffs.

    “This means that the state can’t just sit in silence for 60 years waiting for the case to go away of the plaintiffs to die and then appeal to the statute of limitations.”

    Most Indonesians do not know about the massacre and only recently has a monument been built to remind residents that Dutch soldiers killed all the men of the village.

    The only living witnesses are now in their 80s, and illiterate, after having to fend for themselves following the deaths of their husbands.

    “There were dead bodies everywhere, many of which we found in the river after the shooting stopped,” said Cawi, a survivor.

    Of the nine widows and survivors who have filed the case, three have died while waiting for the verdict.

    The Dutch government had admitted that war crimes were committed in Rawagede but had claimed the survivors filed their claims for compensation too late, saying they should have done this within 30 years.

    The court’s judgement paves the way for a case to establish the level of indemnities to be paid to the relatives.

    However, Zegveld said its narrow focus on widows of massacre victims means it is unclear whether it will expose the Dutch state to a flood of compensation claims from other relatives of people killed during the Dutch fight to retain control over the Dutch East Indies, which became Indonesia in 1949.

    Authorities in the Netherlands say 150 people died while a victims’ association claims 431 lost their lives during an operation to root out a suspected independence fighter hiding in the village, known today as Balongsari.

    None of the soldiers involved in the shooting, which took place on December 9, 1947 was ever prosecuted, Schreuder also said.

    The Dutch government in 2009 decided to donate $1.16m to the area of Balongsari, but has avoided using the term “compensation”, Dutch daily newspaper De Volkskrant reported.

    The paper said however that it lost track of the money after it was paid over to Indonesian authorities and that little development had taken place so far in the village.



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