Netherlands apologize in 1947 Java massacre

The Dutch government on Dec. 9 formally apologized for a massacre at the village of Rawagede, in West Java, 64 years ago that day. Dutch Ambassador to Indonesia Tjeerd de Zwaan presided over a tearful ceremony at the now renamed village of Balongsari. The Dutch apology in the 1947 massacre of at least 150 boys and men at the village comes after a long legal battle by survivors and widows. Survivors and their advocates say the actual death toll was closer to 400. “Today, we remember your family members who died 64 years ago at the hands of the Dutch military troops,” de Zwaan said at the ceremony. “On behalf of Dutch government, I deeply apologize for the tragedy.”

Dutch troops entered Rawagede during Indonesia’s 1947-9 war for independence. They killed male residents as young as 13 as their families and neighbors were forced to watch. In September, a civil court at The Hague issued a landmark ruling finding the Dutch state was responsible for the summary executions. The Dutch government agreed to pay each of the survivors approximately $26,000 in compensation. (Jakarta Post, Jakarta Globe, Dec. 10; The Guardian, Dec. 9; Irish Times, Dec. 16)

Ironically, the commemoration came exactly a month after the 20th anniversary of the massacre of at least 270 when Indonesian troops fired on a protest funeral procession at the Santa Cruz cemetery in Dili, East Timor, on Nov. 12, 1991. Indonesian forces are believed to have killed as many as 184,000 Timorese in the two decades before East Timor won independence in 2002. East Timor’s National Alliance for an International Tribunal (ANTI) is continuing to demand justice in the Santa Cruz massacre and other Indonesian crimes in the island nation. (ETAN, Nov. 12)

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