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Netherlands says sorry for Indonesia atrocities

First formal apology for killings during independence struggle

Netherlands says sorry for Indonesia atrocities

Dutch ambassador to Indonesia Tjeerd de Zwaan meets President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in this 2010 photo

Ryan Dagur, Jakarta

September 13, 2013

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The Netherlands has made a formal apology to Indonesia for the summary killings of thousands of people prior to the former Dutch colony’s independence.    

“On behalf of the Dutch government, I apologize for these excesses,” the Dutch ambassador to Indonesia, Tjeerd de Zwaan, said on Thursday at a ceremony at the Dutch embassy in Jakarta.  

“I also apologize to the widows from Bulukumba, Pinrang, Polewali Mandar and Parepare,” he said referring to districts in South Sulawesi where many of the killings took place.

The deaths occurred during a crackdown by the Netherlands on its former colony after it declared unilateral independence in 1945. The Dutch eventually recognized the country’s independence in 1949.

According to the Indonesian government, about 40,000 people were killed during this period. The Dutch, however, estimate the death toll at about 1,500. No Dutch soldier has ever been prosecuted in connection with the killings.  

“The Dutch government hopes that this apology will help close a difficult chapter for those whose lives were impacted so directly by the violent excesses that took place between 1945 and 1949,” de Zwaan said.

“The Dutch government is aware that it bears a special responsibility in respect of Indonesian widows of victims of summary executions.”

One of the worst atrocities occurred in December 1947 when 300 Dutch troops attacked the village of Rawagede in West Java.

Indonesia later said at least 431 men were killed, while the Dutch insists there were no more than 150 victims.

The Netherlands apologized for these killings in December 2011 after nine relatives of the victims won a landmark court case in The Hague. Each claimant received €20,000 (US$27,000).

The Dutch have also previously apologized and provided compensation for several other cases that went to court, but yesterday marked the first general apology.   

According to embassy spokesman Nicolaas Schermers, other widows can now apply for compensation directly to the government instead of going through the courts, as long as they can show proof their loved ones were executed.

Claims will be accepted until September 11, 2015.

Natalis Pigai, chairman of the National Human Rights Commission, welcomed the apology.

“It means at long last they have acknowledged their troops’ cruelty against our citizens,” he told

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