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17 Feb, 2022 14:56

Dutch military used ‘extreme, widespread violence’ in Indonesia – report

Panel releases findings of historical review into actions of the Netherlands during the Asian nation’s war of independence
Dutch military used ‘extreme, widespread violence’ in Indonesia – report

A historical review has found that the Dutch military “used extreme violence” condoned by the government during the Indonesian struggle for independence in the 1940s, the panel of experts involved in the research said on Thursday.

The Dutch state and military’s behavior throughout the 1945-49 war as Indonesians fought for independence from the colonial power was laid out in a major review that has been conducted over the past few years. Carried out by a panel of academics and experts, the review was funded by the Dutch government in 2017. 

Releasing a summary of the findings, the panel said it found that the Dutch military had behaved in a manner that was rooted in a “colonial mentality,” and noted: “It is evident that at every level, the Dutch unquestioningly applied different standards to... colonial ‘subjects’.”

“Dutch armed forces used extreme violence on a frequent and structural basis, in the form of extrajudicial executions, ill-treatment and torture, detention under inhumane conditions,” it stated.

Among the review’s summary findings, the military was accused of “torching” buildings and whole villages, as well as conducting “mass arrests and mass internment” and “disproportionate air raids and artillery shelling.”

The Dutch government had not previously conducted a full assessment of its country’s actions; in 1969 the then-government found that its forces had as a whole behaved correctly in Indonesia – something the new review said was an untenable position to hold.

The Netherlands agreed in 2020 to provide €5,000 ($5,600) in compensation to the descendants of Indonesians who were killed during the independence war, following a 2013 deal with some of the widows of the military’s victims.

Also in 2020, King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands offered an apology for the Dutch military’s “excessive violence” during the conflict. “In line with earlier statements by my government, I would like to express my regret and apologize for excessive violence on the part of the Dutch in those years,” the monarch said at the time.

“The past cannot be erased, and will have to be acknowledged by each generation in turn.” 

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s government is set to respond to the review later on Thursday.