The Dutch Government Offers Rp86 Million in Damages to the Children of victims of the 1945-1950 Massacres; But Their Application Must be Supported by Documented Evidence
BBC News Indonesia, 20 October 2020
The Dutch government announced that they are going to offer damages to Indonesian children whose families were executed by Dutch soldiers during the independence war between 1945 and 1950, however it seems that not many relatives will meet the requirements [of the application].
The Dutch government promised €5,000 (which is an equivalent of Rp86 million) damages to children who can prove that their fathers were executed by the Dutch during that period.
This assurance is conveyed by the Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs Stef Blok and Minister of Defence Ank Bijleveld, in a letter to the Dutch parliament.
“Children who can prove that their father are victims of summary execution as described … are entitled to receive damages,” the two Dutch ministers wrote on Monday (19/10).
According to both ministers the Dutch government is not going to appeal the court ruling of March that ordered them to pay damages to the widows and children of 11 men that were executed in South Sulawesi between 1946 and 1947.
Now, the Dutch government is offering an “accessible instrument” to the children of victims.
Also, it remains unclear how many people are going to request for damages against the Dutch government under the new scheme.
However, according to the Chairman of the Dutch Debt of Honour Committee (KUKB), Jeffry M. Pondaag, who resides in the Netherlands, not many cases of relatives match the requirements that are needed for the application. The new regulation is limited by an expiration period of two years after the case was submitted to the court.
“For example the cases of the children in Rawagede are excluded from the new regulation up front. According to the requirements the children should have sued the Dutch government [within two years] after the Rawagede case was won in 2011. It means that they could only submit their application [of a regulation that did not exist then] until 2013,” Jeffry explained on Tuesday (20/10) from his residence in the city of Heemskerk, 21 km from Amsterdam.
In 1947, the Dutch army murdered hundreds of residents of the Rawagede village. The village is now called Balongsari in Karawang, West Java.
The children who wish to apply for damages must meet several criteria. First they are required to provide documented proof that their father was killed through execution and secondly, they have to submit documents proving they are legitimately the children of the father who was executed.
The Dutch government also stated that the offer for damages is intended to end the ongoing lawsuits following various cases that were filed by children from victims of Dutch atrocities, including the incident known as the Raymond Westerling massacre in South Sulawesi in 1946-1947.
The amount of damages for children is much less
At that time, many male civilians were executed based on the assumption that they were pro-independence.
Therefore, the children of victims demanded that compensation should not be limited to widows but be granted to children too.
Through a court ruling of 2013, some widows who filed a lawsuit [against the Dutch state] received €20,000 each, which is an equivalent of Rp346 million at the current exchange rate.
Several claims that were submitted by children of victims have been acknowledged as well, however, the amount of damages granted turns out to be much less than the amount paid to the widows.
For example, the Hague Civil Court on 30 September, ordered the Dutch government to pay €874.80, which is an equivalent of Rp15 million, for damages to Malik Abubakar, son of Andi Abubakar Lambogo, a South Sulawesi independence fighter who was beheaded by Dutch soldiers in 1947.
In response to the Dutch government’s offer, Syamsir Halik, the grandson of Becce Beta, a Bulukumba resident who was executed by Westerling’s troops, said he would discuss this issue with his father, Abdul Halik, who is a direct descendant of the victim.
But given that the value of the offer is far from satisfactory, he indicated that it is difficult for them to settle.
“Perhaps, if the offer of damages is following the demand of the children of victims, which at least must equal the amount of €20,000 that was given to the widows, then perhaps the children of victims would accept,” says Syamsir Halik through a telephone call to BBC News Indonesia journalist Rohmatin Bonasir on Monday evening (19/10).
“When a woman becomes a widow after her husband was shot by the Dutch soldiers, she can remarry. But if the children were left by their father, then no one can support them for living. They cannot go to school, their future is lost,” argues Syamsirto, explaining one of the reasons why damages for children should be equal to what widows received.
Prof. Dr Liesbeth Zegveld, who is a Dutch legal expert and the lawyer representing the Indonesian victims of Dutch atrocities, is examining the Dutch government new offer for damages but she seems to be pessimistic about the program.
“It is good that they (the Dutch government) increased the amount of damages, but this does not help much because not many children will benefit from it,” Zegveld said.
Syamsir Halik is an active member of the NGO Lidik Pro that is involved in assisting the families of victims of the massacre in South Sulawesi.
To his knowledge, there are about 146 children of victims still alive out of the 200 people who filedalawsuit previously.
The Dutch courtisstill handling several cases regarding the compensation of damages for atrocities committed by Dutch troops following Indonesia proclamation of independence.
“It is clear that the Dutch government is afraid of the possibility that there will be many more victims of Dutch war crimes who will file lawsuits against them in the future,” says Jeffry M. Pondaag of KUKB.
For the first time, the Kingdom of the Netherlands, through King Willem-Alexander, apologised to Indonesia during his visit last March for the violence that occurred in the past, especially following the Proclamation.
The families of victims of the Westerling massacre accepted the apology even though they stated that the Dutch still need to take full responsibilty for their mistakes.