The surviving relatives of Max Papilaja and Hansina Uktolseja are astounded by the final verdict rendered on 25 July 2018 by the district court of The Hague in the case concerning the Moluccan Train Hijacking near De Punt (Drenthe) in 1977, by which their claims were rejected. The final verdict is a 180-degree turnaround in relation to the interlocutory verdict of 1 February 2017, in which the court had i.a. determined that the State of the Netherlands could not claim that the case was time-barred and in which the request to hear 11 marines was granted.

The case is factually and legally complex and has many aspects that concern both the facts at the time and the manner in which the State subsequently handled the case, also since the court case commenced. In essence however, the case revolves around an assessment of the use of force by the marines that entered the hijacked train as part of the operation to terminate the hijacking. More in particular, it concerns the question of whether those marines indeed shot and killed Max Papilaja and Hansina Uktolseja, and whether they had an honest belief at the time that their use of force was lawful. On the basis of the case file, the surviving relatives assert that there was no such honest belief and that the use of force was unnecessary and disproportionate.

In its final verdict, the court agrees with the surviving relatives that neither Max Papilaja nor Hansina Uktolseja posed an objective threat at the time they were shot dead. Even so, the court finds that at the time, marine 2D who shot Hansina Uktolseja – and incidentally also his commander, marine C2 – acted on the basis of an honest belief that his use of force was necessary. According to the court the same applies to marine 5B who shot Max Papilaja, whilst the court also held that it has not (even) been established that this marine fired the fatal shot. With regard to the honest belief the subjective conviction of the marines was considered decisive, and the court moreover did not doubt the credibility of the marines’ own testimony on the matter.

These conclusions are incomprehensible to the surviving relatives, not in the least in light of the evidence that has surfaced since 2013 and the serious doubts they have about the marines’ own testimony. As such they are deeply disappointed by the final verdict and will file an appeal.

The surviving relatives are represented by lawyers Liesbeth Zegveld and Brechtje Vossenberg.

Read the final verdict here (in Dutch).


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