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Dutch Foreign Minister apologizes for 1947 Indonesian massacre

Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders has visited an Indonesian village where over 400 people were executed by Dutch troops in 1947. It's the first visit by a senior Dutch official since a formal apology in 2011.

Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders with his Indonesian counterpart Retno Marsudi in Jakarta

Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders with his Indonesian counterpart Retno Marsudi in Jakarta

On an official visit to the former Dutch colony where he met his Indonesian counterpart Retno Marsudi in Jakarta, Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders spent part of Friday visiting a memorial in the village of Rawagede (now Balongsari) in West Java, where the massacre took place.

"The tragedy of that time is a black page in our history," Koenders said. "We have acknowledged that mistakes were made and that terrible things have happened. That is why the Dutch government has apologized. I hope that this also contributes to further reconciliation," Koenders said.

English translation: Koenders commemorates at the burial site in Rawagede: "We need to look honestly at the past," he said.

Facing the past

Indonesia and the Netherlands must have the courage to confront the

difficult periods

and events in their common past to be able to move forward together, Koenders told students in Jakarta Thursday.

"After the birth of the Republik Indonesia on August 17, 1945, we experienced a painful separation, a process marked by terrible violence," Koenders said. "The deployment of military force in 1947 put the Netherlands on the wrong side of history."

60 years on

No criminal investigation was started at or soon after 1947, even though a UN report published in 1948 called the killings "deliberate and merciless."

Ten survivors of the massacre officially held the Netherlands responsible for the massacre in 2008 and in December 2009 decided to sue the Dutch state in court.

A civil court in The Hague ruled in September 2011 that the Dutch government pay 20,000 euros ($22,300) each to seven widows, one survivor and a daughter of another widow, who had collectively sought compensation from the Dutch government over the massacre.

Only three of the seven widows of men killed in the massacre who had sought compensation from the Dutch government are still alive today.

English translation: Koenders expresses sympathy to widows in Rawagede: "I hope that this contributes towards reconciliation," he said.

A messy end to Dutch rule

The Rawagede massacre was committed by Royal Netherlands East Indies Army on 9 December 1947 in the village of Rawagede during Operatie Product, as Holland was fighting an independence movement in the jungles of the country.

The forces had been deployed in the East Indies to intervene to prevent massacres of Dutch, Eurasian and Chinese by Indonesia's Republican Army and Indonesian militia Bersiap seeking independence.

Almost all the men from the village, 431 according to most estimates, were killed after the villagers refused to say where the Indonesian independence fighter Lukas Kustario was hiding.

In September 2013, the Dutch government also apologized to widows and families of thousands of men who were executed by Dutch troops in South Sulawesi in 1946-47.

jbh/rc (dpa)

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