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Indonesian rights activists applaud Hague decision

18 september 2011, 12:07
Indonesian activists on Thursday welcomed an international court's finding that the Dutch state was responsible for a massacre in Indonesia in 1947 and that victims' families should be compensated, AFP reports.

The Commission for Disappearances and Victims of Violence (Kontras) said the decision shows that there is no statute of limitations on human rights cases.

"This happened more than 60 years ago. It will send a message to our government that they should take responsibility for their own abuses in Indonesia," Kontras deputy coordinator Haris Azhar told AFP.

Eight widows and one survivor from the town of Rawagede, east of Jakarta, took the Netherlands to court in 2008 to claim compensation for the execution of more than 400 men and boys on December 9, 1947, by colonial troops during Indonesia's war of independence.

An eighth widow died before the court papers were lodged.

A three-judge bench at The Hague civil court ruled Wednesday that seven of the eight widows claiming compensation should receive it, while the family of a survivor of the massacre should also be compensated. The survivor, named as Saih Bin Sakam, died at age 88 in May.

The Netherlands has in the past admitted that the execution did indeed take place, but argued that no claim could be lodged because of an expiry in the statute of limitations in Dutch law of five years, the court heard.

The Dutch government in 2009 decided to donate 850,000 euros ($1.15 million) to the area, but has avoided using the term "compensation", Dutch daily newspaper De Volkskrant reported.

Indonesian rights groups said the decision should push their own government to address a string of massacres in the country's history, particularly the 1965-66 killings of an estimated 500,000 suspected Communists and their sympathisers under the Suharto dictatorship.

"There have been so many massacres across our country, and in fact there have been more killings by authorities in Indonesia's 60 years of independence than there was in the 200 years that the Dutch ruled the country," said prominent Indonesian activist Andreas Harsono.

Indonesia is presently accused of gross human rights abuses in the resource-rich province of Papua, where separatists have fought a low-level insurgency for decades. Torture by police is reportedly widespread in Indonesian prisons.

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