The Netherlands debates war violence in Indonesia

As a colonial power the Netherlands systematically used excessive force and committed war crimes during Indonesia's war of independence from 1945 to 1949. This is the conclusion of the largest study to date on the subject, which was published last week. Prime Minister Mark Rutte apologised to Indonesia on behalf of the Dutch government. The national press comments.

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NRC Handelsblad (NL) /

Admitting mistakes is part of the process

For NRC Handelsblad, apologising is the only way forward:

“The fact that this investigation was launched only after legal action was taken shows how difficult the Netherlands finds it to think - let alone talk - about the dark side of its history. There is no excuse for this. ... Today's government's taking 'full responsibility for the collective failure' is the only correct response. ... Generously admitting and making amends for mistakes is fitting for a country that wants to play a role in the world. Only those who dare and are able to look in the mirror can also rebuke others. That means having an honest self-image.”

De Telegraaf (NL) /

A more nuanced assessment, please

De Telegraaf believes the study won't contribute to resolving the lack of consensus over the events:

“The anger among veterans is great. ... Critics believe that the final document is too one-sided because it focuses almost entirely on the violence on the Dutch side, although there was clear talk of an armed conflict involving several parties and the Indonesians also committed transgressions. ... Would [a different approach] have changed the facts? No. ... But there would have been a far greater sense that after five years of intensive study a balanced picture had emerged, offering the opportunity for both sides to come to terms more quickly with this period of history.”