On 25 March 2020, the District Court of The Hague rendered its final verdict in the so-called South Sulawesi-cases, five combined procedures concerning the policy of summary executions executed that was applied by the Dutch State during the independence war in the former Dutch East Indies. The court ordered the State to pay compensation for the material damages of the widows and children of 11 men who had been summarily executed by the Dutch army at various locations on South Sulawesi during that conflict. The court also awarded one claimant, Mr. Andi Monji, Euro 10,000 in moral damages. This is because of the ‘nervous shock’ (in Dutch: schockschade) he suffered as a child, when he was forced to watch how Dutch soldiers abused and shot his father to death, events that took place within the context of a large-scale purge of the village of Suppa on 28 January 1947 during which the Dutch army executed more than 200 men.
This is the first time that a court has awarded damages to surviving relatives of the State’s policy of summary executions back then. This final verdict marks the end of more than eight years of litigation in first instance. The evidence in this case was submitted i.a. in the form of the testimony of dozens of witness who were heard at the District Court of The Hague via video-link with various locations on South Sulawesi. Liesbeth Zegveld and Brechtje Vossenberg have long been representing the surviving relatives in these cases.
Apart from Mr. Monji, and in accorrdance with the applicable old Dutch law (i.e. Dutch civil law as it applied before 1992), the awarded material damages pertain only to the loss of income during the time in which the widows were not remarried, and as far as the children are concerned only a percentage of that amount. The result is that the awarded damages are very low. The court acknowledged this in its final verdict (par. 2.247-2.249). When the judgment with regard to the widows becomes final, the lawyers will request that the State equalizes the damages the widows are to receive with the Euro 20,000 that it has been paying widows of these kinds of summary executions on the basis of its out-of-court settlement scheme since 2013 (in Dutch: ‘de Bekendmaking’). The lawyers has already requested the State to enact a comparable out-of-court settlement scheme for the children of summarily executed men. Their most recent request to that effect came in light of a judgment rendered by the Appeals Court of The Hague on 1 October 2019. In that judgment, the Appeals Court confirmed that the statute of limitations could be set aside with regard to claims filed by children of summarily executed men.
It is to be hoped that the State will be prepared to settle the damages of both the widows and children in a dignified manner.
The five procedures in question are part of the first group of summons issued against the State by widows and children of summary executed men following the final verdict in the Rawagedeh-case on 14 September 2011. In that verdict, the District Court of The Hague held that the State could not invoke the statute of limitations with regard to the claims filed by widows and a survivor of the summary executions carried out by the Dutch army in the Javanese village of Rawagedeh in 9 December 1947. The South Sulawesi-cases were initiated between 2012-2014. The ruling with regard to the statute of limitations has since been confirmed several times, and expanded to include claims of children of summarily executed men as well as victims of torture and gang rape. The fact that the statute of limitations does not apply in this category of cases was recently been confirmed by the Appeals Court of The Hague in two judgments rendered on 1 October 2019.
- Final verdict South Sulawesi I + II (in Dutch)
- ‘Schadevergoeding voor weduwen en kinderen naar aanleiding van executies in Zuid-Sulawesi' (press release by the District Court of The Hague; in Dutch)
- S. Klompert, 'Staat moet schadevergoedingen betalen voor executies Zuid-Sulawesi', NRC Handelsblad, 26 March 2020
- 'Hague court orders Dutch state to pay out over colonial massacres' The Guardian, 27 March 2020
- Judgment re: unacceptability of invoking prescription by the Dutch State vis-à-vis victim of war crimes in former Dutch East Indies now final
- Claims by victims and surviving relatives of violence Dutch East-Indies not time-barred
- The Netherlands liable for damages of widows and children of summary executions in the former Dutch East Indies
- Dutch State compensates ten widows of the summary executions on Sulawesi and offers apologies
- Dutch State must compensate widows and survivor of the bloodbath in Rawagede