Amnesty for soldiers who served in Indonesia: SP has questions for minister

26 May 2009

Amnesty for soldiers who served in Indonesia: SP has questions for minister

SP Member of Parliament and foreign affairs spokesman Harry van Bommel has asked Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen for his comments on the amnesty granted by the Netherlands to Dutch soldiers who served there during 'policing actions' in the dying days of colonialism. Recent revelations by the television documentary programme 'Netwerk', which made public correspondence which showed that Dutch soldiers were involved in the mass murder of hundreds of civilians, will, the minister has said, not be investigated. To date the government continues to assert that no prosecution is possible because the crime concerned had occurred too long ago.

Harry van BommelAccording to Van Bommel, there has never been genuine openness over the execution of some four hundred boys and men in the Indonesian village of Rawagedeh. Soldiers were in the village in search of a group of insurgents. When they failed to find them, they turned instead to the mass execution of civilians. "Excesses were officially recognised," says Van Bommel, "but the description of events in this report was incomplete, speaking of only tens of deaths, not hundreds." Van Bommel wants to see a new enquiry into the affair.

During an official visit by the Dutch Parliament to Indonesia in the autumn of 2008, Van Bommel spoke with the only person who survived the massacre and a number of relatives of those who died. They want an apology from the Dutch government, and compensation. "The Netherlands has expressed its regret, but never apologised for this tragedy. Worries about having to pay out large damages obviously plays a big role in this," says Van Bommel. "Lawyers representing the relatives have lodged a claim with the Dutch government and with this correspondence coming to light they have a trump card in their hand. The amnesty means the government has no answer to this, and that is unacceptable."

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