The Dutch state is responsible for executions committed by colonial troops at an Indonesian village in 1947 and relatives of victims should be compensated, a Dutch court ruled on Wednesday.
“This court finds that the (Dutch) state acted wrongly through these executions and that the state is liable to pay damages in terms of the law,” judge Daphne Schreuder said in The Hague.
Eight widows and one survivor from the town of Rawagedeh east of Jakarta took the Dutch state to court in 2008 to claim compensation for the execution of men and boys on December 9, 1947 by Dutch colonial troops.
A three-judge bench of The Hague civil court ruled that seven of the eight widows claiming compensation should receive it, while the family of a survivor of the massacre should also be compensated.
The eighth widow had died before the court papers were formally lodged in 2008, Schreuder said.
A hearing to determine the exact amount to be paid would be the next step, the group’s delighted lawyer Liesbeth Zegveld said.
The Netherlands has in the past admitted that the execution did indeed take place, but argued that no claim could be lodged because of an expiry in the statute of limitations in Dutch law of five years.
But judge ruled that “The state’s argument that the case has expired based on the statute of limitations and of reasonableness and fairness is unacceptable.”
“This is a highly unusual case, for which in the Netherlands there was no precedent,” she added.
Authorities in the Netherlands say 150 people died while a victims’ association claims 431 lost their lives during an operation to root out a suspected independence fighter hiding in the village, known today as Balongsari.
None of the soldiers involved in the shooting was ever prosecuted, Schreuder also said.
The Dutch government in 2009 decided to donate 850,000 euros to the area of Balongsari, but has avoided using the term “compensation”, Dutch daily newspaper De Volkskrant reported.
The paper said however that it lost track of the money after it was paid over to Indonesian authorities and that little development had taken place so far in the village.
Indonesia’s former colonial masters, the Dutch colonised the Asian country from the early 17th century. Indonesia gained independence in 1949.