Dutch Double Cross

By: Daniel Nardini

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Commentary During the war for Indonesian independence from 1945-1949, Dutch colonial soldiers committed terrible atrocities against the Indonesian people. One atrocity in particular, the massacre of 150 men and boys in the village of Rawagede on the Indonesian island of Java, was especially heinous. This act was definitely a war crime, and has been recognized as a war crime in the Netherlands itself. This does not include the massacre of 5,000 to 9,000 Indonesian freedom fighters by the Dutch colonial army during the war, nor how many more villages were simply wiped out of existence by the Dutch colonial authorities. Just last December of 2011, the Dutch government offered an “official” apology for the terrible things done by the Dutch colonial army in Indonesia. However, the Dutch courts and the government has ruled that due to a statute of limitations, none of those men and officers from the Dutch colonial army can be prosecuted for these crimes in that war. Nor can the survivors or widows of the men and boys slaughtered receive any compensation for what the Dutch colonial army did.

Let me get this straight; any country can try former Nazi soldiers and officers for war crimes and crimes against humanity, but Dutch soldiers and officers who committed similar atrocities cannot be prosecuted because of a “statute of limitations?” When is there a statute of limitations on war crimes and crimes against humanity? When are those who take the pleasure of butchering innocent human beings exempted from ever being brought to justice? Because the soldiers and officers who committed these terrible atrocities were Dutch, this makes it O.K.? The Dutch prosecutors said, and I quote them, that “the [Dutch] public prosecution services realize that this decision will be unsatisfactory for [Indonesian] relatives and others involved.” What an under-statement of the century! If I had a member of my family brutally killed, and those who committed this were allowed to go free, I certainly would see this as a double standard to say the least!

An apology without justice and no compensation is no apology at all . It certainly is not justice. As the U.S. Army prepares to try Robert Bales for his alleged role in murdering 17 Afghan men, women and children, I seriously hope that justice will prevail in that case. For the Dutch government to state that there is a statute of limitations on war crimes and crimes against humanity by its own soldiers makes a total mockery of its own judicial process, and how it views its former colonial possessions. Apparently the life of an Indonesian is worth little or nothing in the Netherlands. I see two major problems here. The first is that the Netherlands and the Dutch people have not yet come to terms with the dark episode of its colonial past. Because of that, justice remains to be done.

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