Van Bommel: ‘Rawagede verdict historic’

14 September 2011

Van Bommel: ‘Rawagede verdict historic’

SP Member of Parliament Harry van Bommel describes himself as ‘pleasantly surprised’ by the verdict of the court in The Hague in a case brought under Dutch law by seven widows from the Indonesian village of Rawagede. The court today ruled that the Netherlands is responsible for war crimes committed in 1947 against the male population of the village. Van Bommel, who was in court to hear the ruling, described it as a ‘historic verdict which, for the seven widows, has come not a moment too soon.’

In the years following 1947 the government of the Netherlands had already come to the conclusion that the execution of 431 men and boys had been illegal. Yet it was decided that the Dutch soldiers responsible would not be prosecuted. The United Nations also concluded, in a report of 1948, that the soldiers’ actions had been ‘deliberate and merciless’. In the case brought by the widows and the sole survivor of the massacre, the war crimes were not denied, but the state pleaded the statute of limitations, a plea rejected today by the court. The SP has for many years attempted to put pressure on the government to persuade it not to have recourse to the statute of limitations.

Van Bommel has been actively involved in the matter for some time and has met the Rawagede widows on numerous occasions in both the Netherlands and the Indonesian capital of Jakarta. “It’s extremely distressing that the only survivor of the massacre, Mr Sa’ih, is no longer here to see this. He died on 7th May,” says Van Bommel. The MP emphasised that it is now up to the Netherlands to respond in a civilised fashion and accept the verdict. “To appeal now would mean that the case would be drawn out still further and the widows, who are extremely elderly, would probably not live to see a definitive ruling. That would be unacceptable.”

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