The Netherlands tortured people in prison camps during Indonesia’s War of Independence
Between 1945 and 1949, the Netherlands tortured residents of Bali in prison camps on the island. Many Balinese were also executed in these camps, concluded historian Anne-Lot Hoek in her doctoral research. According to Hoek, the Netherlands deliberately concealed the torture and execution of Indonesian independence fighters, reports NU.nl.
In 1969, the Dutch government concluded that the Netherlands behaved “correctly” during the Indonesian War of Independence. The Foreign Ministry reiterated this position in 2018. But according to Hoek, nothing is further from the truth. The “Dutch authorities looked away, participated, encouraged or even gave the order to torture or kill,” she told the newspaper.
In Bali, the Dutch army worked closely with the Balinese monarchs who had remained loyal to Dutch rule. According to Hoek, the Netherlands had no preconceived plan to set up a system of torture camps. But turned to these camps due to fierce resistance to the return of the Dutch after the Japanese occupation during World War II. “A large part of the population opposed the colonial reoccupation,” Hoek said.
Hoek found 25 prison camps, school buildings, police stations and other places where Balinese freedom fighters were tortured. It also found 25 other sites where prisoners were being held. She described as “painful” that the Dutch authorities did not hesitate to arm the Balinese against each other in a very “colonial” way.
“It is important for Dutch society to understand what colonial thought and action led in Indonesia after WWII and what the impact was on the Indonesian population,” Hoek told NU.nl.
Hoek used archives, letters, and diaries for his research. The historian also spoke to 120 Dutch and Indonesian eyewitnesses, including veterans, torture camp survivors and relatives of killed freedom fighters.
The government has also commissioned a full-scale investigation into war crimes committed in Indonesia. The results are expected in February of next year. The cabinet will wait for these results before reassessing the actions of the Dutch military in Indonesia, spokespersons from the defense and foreign ministries told NU.nl.
In 2019, The Hague Court of Appeal held the Dutch state responsible for the execution of one man and the torture of another man in the former Dutch East Indies. The court ruled that these crimes are not time-barred. Nineteen Indonesian children executed in Bali have sought redress. Earlier this month, the Defense Ministry told NU.nl it assumed that more than the parents of those 19 people had been executed by the Netherlands without trial.
Last year, the King of the Netherlands Willem-Alexander apologized for the Dutch colonial past in Indonesia and the excessive violence of Dutch forces during the War of Independence. “In line with previous statements by my government, I would like to express and reiterate my regret and apologies for the excessive violence on the part of the Dutch over these years. I do so fully knowing that the pain and sorrow of the affected families continues. to be felt today. “