Netherlands apologises for 1947 Indonesia massacre
The Dutch government formally apologised Friday to the families of victims of a 1947 massacre on Indonesia's Java island, on the 64th anniversary of the executions by its colonial army.
Dutch troops swooped into a village in the town of Rawagede during Indonesia's fight for independence and executed men and boys as their families and neighbours looked on.
Dutch officials say 150 people were killed, but a support group and the local community say the death toll was 431.
"In this context and on behalf of the Dutch government, I apologise for the tragedy that took place in Rawagede on the 9th of December, 1947," the Netherlands ambassador to Indonesia Tjeerd de Zwaan said.
He then repeated the apology in the Indonesian language, to the applause of hundreds of people attending the ceremony, some of whom broke down in tears.
In a landmark ruling, a Hague-based civil court in September found the Dutch state responsible for the executions and ruled in favour of seven widows and a survivor of the massacre who brought the case to court.
The court rejected the Dutch argument that no claim could be lodged because of an expiry in the statute of limitations in Dutch law of five years, saying it was "unacceptable".
This same argument is used by the Indonesian government to avoid trial over the torture and killings of an estimated 500,000 communists and their sympathisers in 1965-66 as the Suharto dictatorship emerged.
The ambassador said the massacre was a clear example of how Dutch-Indonesian relations could go "so wrong", and assured the community that the apology had the broad support of the Dutch people.
"I hope that by reflecting together on what happened that day we will also be able to turn together to the future and all its opportunities for close productive cooperation between the two countries," he said.
© 2011 AFP