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Dutch PM Apologises to Indonesia Over Colonial Period Violence

Dutch soldiers of the Royal Netherlands East Indies Army. (KNIL) and Dutch Marines during a break from combat in 1949. Image

The Dutch Prime Minister, Mark Rutte, has apologised for the extreme and systematic violence perpetrated during Indonesia’s war of independence.

This apology comes after research uncovered the violence instigated by the Dutch during the colonial period in Indonesia.

Today, on behalf of the Dutch government, I offer my deepest apologies to the Indonesian people for the systematic and extreme violence on the part of the Dutch in those years,” Prime Minister Mark Rutte said at a press conference.

“We also apologise to all those living in the Netherlands who had to live with the consequences of the colonial war in Indonesia, including well-behaved war veterans,” Rutte went on to say.

In a four-year study conducted by Dutch and Indonesian researchers, it was confirmed that the Dutch army burned villages and carried out mass detentions, torture, and summary execution between 1945-1949. This extreme violence was carried out with the tacit support of the government.

In this study, the researchers stated that the Dutch, from politicians, officials, civil servants, judges, and so on knew about the extreme and systematic violence. This violence occurred because the Dutch wanted to defend their former colony after Indonesia declared its independence in 1945, but then withdrew in 1949.

“There is a collective will to justify and hide it and leave it unpunished. All of this is happening with a higher purpose: winning the war,” the researcher said.

This is not the first Dutch apology to Indonesia. Dutch King Willem-Alexander previously officially apologised during a visit to Indonesia in 2020 for “excessive violence” during the colonial period. However, Prime Minister Rutte’s apology this time is the Netherlands first acknowledgement that there was effectively intentional brutal violence during the war.

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