Van Bommel: ‘Public prosecutor must investigate Rawagede bloodbath’

26 October 2011

Van Bommel: ‘Public prosecutor must investigate Rawagede bloodbath’

SP Member of Parliament Harry van Bommel is urging the Openbaar Ministerie (OM) – literally the ‘Public Ministry’, in reality the equivalent of Britain’s Director of Public Prosecutions or the United States Attorney General – to launch an investigation into the bloodbath perpetrated on the island of Java by Dutch soldiers in 1947. Now part of an independent Indonesia, Java was at the time a colony of the Netherlands. The massacre has long been the subject of a campaign for justice, but this weekend a television documentary revealed that a single Dutch soldier was responsible for the execution of 120 Indonesian men. The man had confessed his crime to a doctor at an advice centre. ‘After all these years the silence has been broken,’ says Van Bommel, who has for many years worked in solidarity with the surviving relatives of the victims. ‘An investigation is the least that we can promise the relatives.’

Harry van BommelThe SP has devoted its energies for years to an attempt to bring about clarification of the facts surrounding the massacre in the West Java village of Rawagede in December of 1947. A court in The Hague recently acknowledged that what happened in Rawagede can never be subject to a Statute of Limitations. A handful of the last few survivors are demanding compensation from the Dutch state, but the government is considering appealing in a higher court against the judgment. “The government would rather take legal action against the relatives than try to do the best it can to conclude this tragedy in a humane fashion. That’s why I’m pleading for compensation for the widows of Rawagede and an in-depth investigation into the events.”

As well as a legal inquiry Van Bommel wants to see a fresh historical investigation. In 1969 the ‘Excessennota’ – An account of excesses - was published in which a number of massacres were listed. Historian Cees Fasseur, who worked on this account all those years ago, is now of the opinion that it was incomplete. “It’s time that the surviving witnesses were given the chance to speak,” says Van Bommel, “in order that we can, as quickly as possible, gain as good a picture of that war as is possible. Every day that we wait we lose opportunities to construct an accurate image of this dark page from our history.”

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