Press release: Dutch Lawyer Liesbeth Zegveld Withdraws From the Indonesia Cases, as She Wants to Hold on to the Colonial Principle of ‘Extreme Violence’
Heemskerk, 15 August 2021
Today, a few days before August 17th, the day that Indonesia celebrates its 76th anniversary, the K.U.K.B. Foundation reveals that Liesbeth Zegveld no longer wants to represent Indonesian victims in court. In an official letter, dated May 3, 2021 and co-signed by her colleague Brechtje Vossenberg, she wrote to K.U.K.B. chairman Jeffry Pondaag: “our office will/cannot accept new cases from [Indonesian] people who want to submit a claim against the Dutch State under the Children’s Settlement Arrangement or the Widows Settlement Arrangement.”
K.U.K.B. chairman Jeffry Pondaag is very disappointed in both Zegveld and Vossenberg, who work for the Amsterdam law firm Prakken d’Oliveira: “They go along with the colonial legislation that is used by the Dutch state and the Civil Court in The Hague.”
As the first argument for her decision Zegveld mentions her busy job, she suggests she has no time anymore. But it is clear from her letter that she has the greatest difficulty with Pondaag’s criticism, who repeatedly urged her in recent years to address the colonial aspect of the Dutch legal process. From the letter it becomes clear that the Dutch presence in Indonesia as occupiers, including the colonial legislation that was enforced, is taken as given by Zegveld.
Jeffry Pondaag: “this is not about individual misbehavior, but about an entire country that acted as perpetrator. The Netherlands was an occupier of other people’s lands. They have not only killed Indonesians, but also looted and enriched themselves with our natural resources, for centuries. The Dutch are murderers and thieves. They used divide and conquer and set up a three-layer apartheid system. Indonesians, about 70-100 million people during colonial times, were not considered human.” (Read here Pondaag’s extensive answer to the letter from Liesbeth Zegveld.)
Both lawyers follow the reasoning of the Dutch state and the court who claim that the Dutch occupying army, apart from ‘extreme violence’, also used ‘legitimate violence’. Dutch colonial law only condemns acts of violence that exceed the law of war. This means that summarily executing Indonesian citizens and mistreating prisoners is considered a war crime, but that the Dutch occupation of Indonesia as a whole is seen as legitimate.
According to this principle, it was perfectly right for the Dutch regime to violently crush any form of resistance, as long as they did not murder or mistreat [unarmed] civilians and prisoners of war. Hence, according to the Netherlands, when their soldiers executed an Indonesian who took up arms in the late 1940s, this falls under legitimate violence.
Jeffry Pondaag: “The concept of ‘extreme violence’ is so colonial! That is why I always ask the question: Where did the Netherlands got the right to consider an area 18,000 kilometers away as its property? There is no such right.”
Dutch Law Considers Indonesian Relatives as ‘Subjects’
The verdicts also show that until 1949 Indonesian relatives are regarded as ‘Dutch subjects’. The Indonesian independence date of 17 August 1945 is not legally recognized by the Netherlands. The concept of ‘subjects’ who did not became independent Indonesians 1945 but only in 1949, is not linked to the three-layered apartheid system that the Netherlands enforced in Indonesia. The Indonesians who sued the Dutch state were seen as ‘inlanders’ [slur for ‘natives’] in colonial times, they did not enjoy the rights that Europeans had. At swimming pools and public places signs read: “Dogs and natives not allowed.” None of this is mentioned in the courtroom, on the contrary, in the Dutch courts European laws are applied on people who never fell under these laws.
For years, Pondaag had urged Zegveld to question the legitimacy of the colonial-racist occupation system and to mention the policy of apartheid. But in their letter Zegveld and Vossenberg claim that the illegality of colonialism cannot be the basis of legal claims. In addition, they seem to be personally offended because Pondaag called them out for having colonial ideas. This is the reason for their decision that they no longer want to represent Indonesian victims.
International treaties of the United Nations (UN) state that colonialism is illegal, however the Dutch courts and lawyers still consider colonialism to be legitimate. “That arrogance is sickening,” said the secretary of K.U.K.B. Christa Soeters, who recently joined the board of the foundation.
The foundation is therefore looking for a law firm that sees the Dutch occupation of Indonesia as unlawful and that dares to question colonial law, and is also willing to mention the colonial apartheid system in court.
K.U.K.B. secretary Christa Soeters
Phone: +31 638613795
Read here Pondaag reply to Liesbeth Zegveld in pdf: