Netherlands apologizes for 1947 massacre
Dutch ambassador to Indonesia Tjeerd de Zwan (L) meet with surviving widows. AP photoThe Dutch government formally apologized Friday for a 1947 massacre on Indonesia’s Java island, in an emotional ceremony on the anniversary of the executions by its colonial army.
Dutch troops swooped into a village in the town of Rawagede during Indonesia’s fight for independence and executed men and boys as their families and neighbors looked on. Dutch officials say 150 people were killed, but a support group and the local community say the death toll was 431. “In this context and on behalf of the Dutch government, I apologies for the tragedy that took place in Rawagede on the 9th of December, 1947,” the Netherlands ambassador to Indonesia Tjeerd de Zwaan said. He then repeated the apology in the Indonesian language, to the applause of hundreds of people attending the ceremony, some of whom broke down in tears as they listened in front of a marble monument commemorating the dead.
In a landmark ruling, a Hague-based civil court in September found the Dutch state responsible for the executions and ruled in favour of eight widows and a survivor of the massacre who brought the case to court. Two of the widows have died since launching the case, and so has the survivor, Saih Bin Sakam, who passed away in May at the age of 88. The Netherlands agreed to pay $1.13 million to the community before the court’s decision, and will now pay an additional $242,000 in compensation to the plaintiffs or their families. One of the widows, 93-year-old Anti Rukiyah, said she was relieved to finally receive an apology. “At the same time, it happened so long ago, it doesn’t matter anymore,” she told AFP.