Thursday, November 27, 2008

Associated Press: Dutch gov't lawyer says no massacre compensation

by Mike Corder
The Hague

Relatives of victims of a notorious massacre by Dutch troops during Indonesia's war of independence can no longer apply for compensation because the statute of limitations has expired, the government said.
One survivor of the Dec. 9, 1947, summary executions in Rawagedeh on Java island and nine female relatives of some of the dozens of men killed are seeking compensation from the Dutch state.
Their attorney, Liesbeth Zegveld, said Monday that a government lawyer has written to her saying the case can no longer be heard because it is too old. Zegveld said she was surprised by the ruling. The killings, for which the Dutch government has previously expressed regret, were still being discussed by lawmakers nearly 61 years later.
"I am surprised they dare to invoke this," she said of the statute of limitations. "I find it unreasonable." Zegveld said she was pleased the government offered to discuss the case with her clients to help them with their grieving.
However, she said she would not rule out taking the case before a Dutch court, despite the government's assertion it is too old.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Aad Meijer underscored the government's regret, calling the killings, "one of the worst examples of the painful and violent way the Netherlands and Indonesia separated at the time. It was an execution of a large group of men without any form of trial."
Meijer said former Dutch Foreign Minister Ben Bot made a public statement of deep regret in 2005, after which both the Dutch and Indonesian government agreed that compensation was no longer an issue.
"A line was drawn by both countries under this painful part of their shared history," he said.

Indonesia declared its independence from Dutch colonial rule when World War II ended in 1945. The Netherlands fought unsuccessfully to try to maintain control of its lucrative Asian outpost and Indonesia was finally recognized as independent in 1949.

Meijer said the Dutch ambassador to Indonesia will attend a Dec. 9 memorial service in Rawagedeh, about 60 kilometers (40 miles) east of the capital, Jakarta. It will be the first time such a senior Dutch diplomat has attended the annual memorial event.

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