Ten next-of-kin are holding the Dutch state responsible for the deaths of their husbands and fathers on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi in 1947. The survivors are demanding financial compensation, but above all want an apology and recognition of their suffering.
Lawyer Liesbeth Zegveld told Dutch news agency ANP she has sent Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal a letter informing him of the demands. “The foundation representing the interests of the victims’ families wants to work with the state to find a solution for all the crimes that were committed there.”
Former army captain Raymond Westerling was ordered to restore Dutch authority in the province of South Sulawesi after the departure of Japanese forces at the end of World War II. Dutch soldiers were reportedly involved in large-scale executions. Two former soldiers later admitted in a television show to being involved in crimes against the local population.
Ms Zegveld argues that a special commission in 1954 found that Dutch soldiers were involved in these crimes. “The then authorities chose the route of extra-legal trials and executions. The investigators also concluded that Captain Westerling could do very much as he pleased." Ms Zegveld says the highest authorities in the Netherlands made this possible.
The Public Prosecution Service announced in April that it would not launch an investigation into the alleged crimes, as the statute of limitations had already run out in the 1970s. No soldiers were ever prosecuted for the massacres. “The Dutch state never offered an apology or paid compensation to the next of kin," says Ms Zegveld.
The lawyer scored a major success in a similar case focussing on the 1947 massacre in the village of Rawagede in Western Java in which about 431 men were killed. The nine surviving relatives were awarded 20,000 euros each and the Dutch state offered its apologies, nearly 65 years after the event.
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