Interview with Dutch Lawyer Prof. Zegveld who Defended Rawagede Victims
Okezone.com 26 November 2016 by: Randy Wirayudha
A few days ago, The Prime Minister of the Netherlands Mark Rutte, made an official visit to Indonesia. At November 23, 2016, Prime Minister Rutte met the Indonesian President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) and he also gave a speech at the Indonesian Parliament.
Coincidentally at the same date, a Dutch human rights lawyer arrives in Indonesia too. Although her visit has no connection with the delegation that accompanied Rutte.
Other reasons brought her to Karawang, Balongsari village. In Rawamerta District to be exact; the location where 400 hundred Indonesian civilians were murdered by Dutch soldiers on December 9, 1947 (Rawagede Incident).
The case was brought to a Dutch court by the Committee of Dutch Debts of Honor together with Dutch lawyer Professor Liesbeth Zegveld. The author of this article had the chance to meet with Professor Zegveld who works for Prakken d’Oliveira Law Firm and comes to Indonesia with Jeffry Pondaag who is the chairman of the Committee of Dutch Debts of Honor.
She is the one who won cases against the Dutch government about Dutch violations in Rawagede, the Dutch government was forced to pay compensation. After 2011, she went back to Karawang to meet with the the family of the Rawagede victims. Here are some parts of the exclusive interview with Professor Zegveld in Swiss-Belinn Hotel, Karawang, November 23rd 2016:
As introduction, can you tell me about your journey so far?
It’s my second time here, the first time was in 2011 when the Dutch ambassador expressed the apology. I’m glad to see the family of the victims again. Now they can meet me personally after all this time that they could only hear my voice. This time my visit is more to build a better relationship with them.
What is your motivation to work on cases like this?
I never worked on cases like this case for money, not for money at all. We worked on the Rawagede case because we care for the law. It is almost a decade ago. At the start, I refused. But he (Jeffry Pondaag) kept sending me letters. Finally when I read more about the case, I agreed to defend the victims in court.
What about the other cases? Like the events in Rengat (Riau) for example?
I just hear about the case from Jeffry. That is why on November 24th, I will fly together with Jeffry to Rengat. We still have to start the investigation of this case. We will meet the people in Rengat who contacted the foundation (Committee of Dutch Debts of Honor). For some time we will be investigating the situation to learn more about what the people want.
Did you experience intimidations or hate from your fellow Dutch about what you’re doing?
Actually in the Netherlands this is just a matter of law and it makes things easier because we are seen as the capital of international law. But of course there are people who don’t like what we are doing, people who feel offended, like ex-military or the people who use to have family in here (Indonesia). Generally, they just want the case to be forgotten. Why suing your own country?
Is Rawagede the first human right case you handled?
No there are other cases, like the human right violations in Libya, Iraq. Also Bosnia where Dutch Soldiers repelled Muslim refugees from the UN camp. There is also a case about the family of the Moluccans who were involved the hostage crisis in 1977.
What do Dutch people feel and see about the human rights cases in Indonesia?
The Rawagede case actually hit the headlines many times, yet there is not much interest from the government side. Currently we started a case and many people who don’t understand, think that what we are doing has to stop. But come on! I think they should see the bigger picture of these events. I think the Dutch public opinion needs to change. When we started, people thought: ‘what is this’? Dutch people don’t care because they don’t know what happened, they lack information. People easily judge. I think that once they have more information, their mind will change. Little by little, they will begin to understand and then they will feel sorry and concerned. Yes, it takes some time to change peoples mind.
Is it a coincidence that you visit Indonesia at the same time as Prime Minister Rutte?
Yes, he also visited Semarang, the Dutch War Cemetery in Kalibanteng. I saw the media coverage about his visit; there is a picture of him with his sleeves rolled up, that is how he is. You know that he was a historian before? I am also curious about what he said in the Indonesian Parliament. As historian, he should be interested in cases like this (Rawagede). However he came here for a trade mission, even though business and human rights are linked. You cannot properly do business when you are not concerned with human rights, he missed that fundamental link.
The Dutch Ministry of Defense also complained about the disappearance of the shipwrecks (De Kortenaer and De Ruyter) the Java Sea?
About the shipwrecks; it is violation of the law if there are people who took it. But, I find it difficult to say something about it. The Dutch government says that Indonesia turned a blind eye, but I think it is not good to say this to the Indonesian government.
[Originally published in Indonesian. Translated by Randy Wirayudha and Marjolein van Pagee. Please send us an e-mail if you think you can improve the translation: firstname.lastname@example.org]