When the Dutch Court only pays IDR15.25 Million in Damages
Although human rights violations that took place during the colonial period are acknowledged by the payment of damages of Rp.15.25 million to a victim of KNIL troops, the amount is considered disproportionally low in regard of the victim’s life.
Kompas, 3 October 2020, By Dian Dewi Purnamasari
The claim of the child of an Indonesian freedom fighter, Andi Abubakar Lambogo, against the Dutch government for the murder carried out by the Royal Netherlands Indies Army or KNIL in 1947, has been approved by the civil court in The Hague, Wednesday (30/9/2020). The court’s efforts to acknowledge human rights violations during the Dutch colonial period were appreciated. However, the €874.80 damages or Rp15.25 million for the family of the victim of the beheading by KNIL troops are considered disproportionally low.
The chairperson of the Dutch Debt of Honour Committee (KUKB) Jeffry Pondaag, through a press release that was published on the website historibersama.com, says that the civil court in The Hague convicted the Dutch government for the beheading of the Indonesian freedom fighter Andi Abubakar Lambogo.
Andi Abubakar was killed by the Royal Netherlands Indies Army (KNIL) in 1947. The court convicted the Dutch government and ordered the payment of €874.80 in material damages. The Dutch government rejected the original demands of Andi Abubakar Lambogo’s son, Malik Abubakar, for €30,000 in immaterial damages.
“Malik only receives €874.80 in material damages for his father’s beheading in 1947. This is based on the idea that if his father had not been murdered, he would have been taking care of Malik until his 21st year,” Jeffry says.
The court also acknowledges that the damages are very low. When converted to rupiah the value is only Rp15.25 million. However, the court considers the decision still fair because the ruling was adjusted to the average livelihood of 70 years ago in South Sulawesi. The judges argued that most Indonesian men worked as farmers in 1947.
The court has estimated that the income at that time was only about €100 a year. The calculation scheme has also been used by previous courts cases to determine the exact amount of damages [for Indonesian plaintiffs]. The lowest amount of damages provided so far is €123.48 for the family of one victim.
Malik Abubakar has also asked the Dutch government to issue a general public apology to the Indonesian people.
Malik asked the Dutch government to take responsibility for acts committed during colonial times that violated the Geneva Convention. He also asked the Dutch government to apologise for his father’s beheading. However, the court ruling does not mention anything about an apology.
Andi Abubakar Lambogo was the captain of the Tentara Rakyat Indonesia (Indonesia’s People’s Army) leading a resistance group near Enrekang, South Sulawesi on 13 March 1947. He and his men were ambushed by colonial troops, Lambogo was then beheaded. The name of the Dutch Regional Commander in Enrekang was Captain Gerardus August Blume.
The court’s verdict, according to Jeffry Pondaag, does not acknowledge the incident as a beheading but talks about corpse desecration. This is because there is no historical source or witness who saw the beheading. Two eyewitnesses who testified via Skype in 2019 only mentioned that the head of Lambogo was then impaled on a bayonet and displayed on the local market. The other arrested Indonesian freedom fighters were forced to kiss the head of their leader. The entire population, men, women, and children had to watch it. Two of them; Nawa and Bachtiar, testified as witnesses during the trial.
When reading the facts in the court’s verdict, Jeffry, who is active in advocating for the victim’s rights of human rights violations committed by the Dutch, finds the attitude of the Dutch civil court extremely colonial. According to him, neither the Dutch State nor the court recognises Indonesia’s independence and sovereignty of 1945. The court argues that Indonesians were not yet independent subjects between 1945 and 1949.
Until today, the Netherlands still maintain that the date of the transfer of sovereignty (27 December 1949) is the date that Indonesia became independent. They do not want to acknowledge that Indonesia has proclaimed its independence on 17 August 1945. In line with the Dutch State, the court has rejected the demand for immaterial damages.
“Because of that, relatives who are still alive, such as Malik, is treated as if he was a Dutch subject at the time when the beheading of his father took place,” says Jeffry.
According to Jeffry, all this is very ironic when linked to the massive cash flow that went [from Indonesia] to the Netherlands after 1949. In an article published by De Groene Amsterdammer, the Netherlands received at least €103 billion. This means that the damages that the Dutch state has to pay now are part of the legacy that is based on stealing and extorting Indonesians after the war for independence.
The court’s estimations are not only very low but they are also not acknowledging that farmers in South Sulawesi at that time earned considerably less because of centuries of Dutch exploitation. People like Lambogo were killed because of the huge Dutch colonial interests in Indonesia.
“The court does not take into account the hundreds of billions of Euros that the Dutch obtained through extortion. Instead, the court concludes that it is fair that the relatives receive an insignificant amount of damages for the murder of their fathers. This is very colonial,” Jeffry says.
The Dutch State paid damages several times
Historian Bonnie Triyana says that several times, the Dutch government had to pay damages to victims of violence. One series of court cases that were considered to be successful were the damages to victims of the massacre in Rawagede, Karawang, West Java, in 2011.
It was a long struggle for the victims because, until the 1980s, the Dutch refused to acknowledge the atrocities and human rights violations that they committed in Indonesia. At that time, there were still many Dutch war veterans alive who thought that the Indonesian army was equally cruel to the Dutch. Therefore, the Dutch State and courts, up until 1980, did not accept cases that concerned [Dutch] human rights violations [against Indonesians] and they did not want to restore the rights of the victims.
“This is the result of a long struggle, both for the victims, legal counsels such as KUKB, and historians. Until finally,it became apparent that the [Dutch] atrocities and human rights violations took place on a systematic basis and were supported by the Dutch State,” Bonnie says.
Although not all results have met the expectations of victims and the Indonesian people, Bonnie says that the Dutch government has shown willingness to take responsibility for the human rights crimes they have committed in Indonesia, especially during the period of the military aggression when Indonesia became an independent nation. However, the Netherlands does not yet recognise that Indonesia was already independent since 1945. The Netherlands still maintain that the independence of Indonesia started after the transfer of sovereignty in 1949.
There is still a long way for the Dutch to truly recognise Indonesia’s independence based on the proclamation of 17 August 1945. If the Netherlands acknowledges this, there will be many legal implications.
“This is not about damages. This is a matter of acknowledging that they have committed human rights violations in the past for which they need to take responsibility. This will also, indirectly, change the historical narrative,” Bonnie says.
For Indonesia, the [Dutch] State’s responsibility for past crimes against humanity such as this should be an example. In Indonesia, there are also cases of human rights violations where many victims do not get the justice they deserve. Still, the historical narrative often discredits them as victims.
“Indonesia must also learn from this case. Even after decades, it is still possible to file lawsuits regarding human rights violations that were committed by the former colonial power. So, do not assume that cases of state-violence cannot be fought legally,” Bonnie concludes.