Netherlands claim moratorium for war crimes in Indonesia

17 November 2010 by Linawati Sidarto

Survivors of a massacre by Dutch soldiers in an Indonesian village over six decades ago are demanding official apologies and reparations through a landmark court case ongoing in The Hague. The Dutch state claims that the case has exceeded its statute of limitation, but legal experts accuse The Hague of being arbitrary.

“We were told to sit on the floor in rows of seven. My father and brother were also there. When the Dutch soldiers didn’t receive the answer they wanted, they started shouting ‘just shoot them’. Then they started shooting us in the back.”

A frail Saih bin Sakam, 87, last week relived the fateful day on December 9th, 1947, when the Dutch military stormed into Rawagede, a small village east of Jakarta. The soldiers were looking for freedom fighters battling for independence from the Dutch. When the villagers refused to give them information, they rounded up all men, including teenagers, and executed them. According to Indonesian accounts, 431 men and boys died that day. The Dutch put the toll at 150.

Saih, the sole survivor of the massacre, was in the Netherlands to forge forward the civil suit he filed in December last year together with eight Rawagede widows, assisted by the foundation KUKB (committee for Dutch honour debts).

Want to read more?

If you subscribe to a free membership, you can read this article and explore our full archive, dating back to 1997.

Subscribe now

Related articles

article
19 February 2007 by Laetitia Grotti

One year ago on January 6, 2006, the 17 members of Morocco's Equity and Reconciliation Commission (IER) were closing up shop after submitting their final report to King Mohammed VI. The Moroccan truth commission had received a flood of compliments from the international community praising the recommendations in its report, especially those advocating legislative and constitutional reforms. One year later, however, the results have been rather mixed.

article
11 September 2006 by our correspondent in Arusha

After having tried high-ranking officers, ministers, businessmen, priests, journalists, local officials and militiamen, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) is in uncharted waters. On September 11, the most famous rwandese troubadour of his generation will stand trial for genocide. 

article
23 October 2006 by Christine Chaumeau

China is keeping a polite distance from international criminal justice. Beijing is hardly disinterested, but China does want to make sure that these new global mechanisms are not going to infringe upon its sovereignty by delving into particularly sensitive cases such as Tibet. 

article
United Nations Operation in Burundi disarms rebel forces in Mbanda in February 2005 (Photo: Flickr/UN Photo/Martine Perret)
03 June 2015 by Janet H. Anderson, The Hague (The Netherlands)

Over the last month, Burundi has hit the headlines as the president put himself forward to be elected for a controversial third term, resulting in street protests, thousands of refugees who fled instability and an attempted coup. Behind the issues of elections and constitutionalism are also those of justice following Burundi’s long-running civil war. The international community supported an intensive process of negotiation and the signing of the Arusha Accord in 2000. But in the decade and a half since, its provisions on justice have been debated though never fully implemented.

article
06 November 2006 by Pierre Hazan

France's attitude towards international criminal justice is marked by ambiguity. Paris subscribes to a vision of the world in which international humanitarian law is considered a way to curb violence against civilian populations, but at the same time it is wary of an unchecked judicial system that could end up prosecuting French soldiers engaged in areas where it has old and deep-rooted interests.