Indonesian Widows Win Dutch Compensation for 1947 Massacre

Posted September 15th, 2011 at 2:12 am (UTC-5)
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Seven elderly Indonesian women are to receive compensation payments from the Dutch government for the loss of their husbands, who were massacred during the nation's independence struggle more than 60 years ago.

A Dutch court announced the decision in a lawsuit Wednesday, rejecting as “unreasonable” the Dutch government's argument that a statute of limitations has expired. Further hearings will be held to decide the amount of compensation.

Dutch colonial troops lined up and shot all the men and boys in the village of Rawagedeh in December 1947 when the villagers failed to disclose the location of a fugitive independence fighter. The Dutch government says 150 people were killed, while villagers say the total was more than 400.

There were nine original plaintiffs in the lawsuit, but one widow and the last surviving victim of the massacre died before Wednesday's court ruling. Relatives of the victim will also be compensated.

The Associated Press spoke Thursday to some of the widows, whose lawsuit was filed in 2008. A 90-year-old woman who uses the single name Cawi said she felt “blessed” and “thankful” at the news.

Cawi recounted her memories of the massacre, saying the women of the village had to bury the men with their bare hands.

The Dutch government formally expressed regret for the massacre for the first time in 2005, but no soldiers were ever prosecuted.

A Dutch newspaper says in 2009 the government made a $1.1 million donation to be spent for the benefit of the area around the village. It says the Netherlands lost track of the money after it was handed over to Indonesian authorities, and few benefits have reached the village.