Dutch State Ordered to Compensate 'Children of Sulawesi'

MARCH 12, 2015

Jakarta. The Dutch state has to compensate not only widows, but also the children of men murdered during a bloody crackdown on Indonesians resisting colonial rule in South Sulawesi in the years 1946-49, a court in the Netherlands ruled on Wednesday.

Widows and children of men who were summarily executed in that period have a right to compensatory damages, as the soldiers carrying out the killings were operating on behalf of the Dutch state, the court in The Hague ruled.

A previous ruling, which led to a settlement that included the payment of 20,000 euros ($21,150) to select widows by the Dutch state and the issuance of a formal apology, did not apply to the children of executed men. The latest ruling mentions that just like in the case of the widows, the statute of limitations does not apply in the case of the sons and daughters of those put to death.

The ruling, announced in a statement in Dutch posted on the official website of the Dutch judiciary, did not state how many people would be compensated, nor was an amount mentioned. Both would have to be established after further investigation, the court said.

'Westerling method'

The massacres in Sulawesi were part of a 1946-47 campaign in which the controversial Dutch Capt. Raymond Westerling played an important role. As the commander of a Special Forces unit, Westerling was called upon to “pacify” South Sulawesi.

The so-called “Westerling Method” entailed summary executions of people suspected to be involved in any anti-Dutch activity and other harsh counter-insurgency tactics.

Estimates vary widely, but historians have put the death toll as a direct result of the actions by Westerling's unit in South Sulawesi at around 1,500, with regular military units being responsible for many other killings in the region.

The Indonesian government at the time put the number of victims in Sulawesi at 40,000.

Official apology

In 2013, the Dutch ambassador to Indonesia at the time, Tjeerd de Zwaan, issued a formal apology for the killings.

In a statement, de Zwaan said that the Dutch government “is aware that it bears a special responsibility in respect of Indonesian widows of victims of summary executions comparable to those carried out by Dutch troops in what was then South Celebes [Sulawesi] and Rawagede [now Balongsari, West Java].”

“On behalf of the Dutch government, I apologize for these excesses,” the ambassador said in English before repeating his words in Indonesian.

In Rawagede in December 1947, hundreds of boys and men were killed by Dutch troops who were trying to locate an Indonesian fighter presumed to be hiding in the village. Relatives of Rawagede victims received compensation in 2011.