Dutch octogenarians seek justice for Indonesia war refusals

Two Dutch octogenarians who served jail time for refusing to fight in the Netherlands' colonial army in Indonesia in the 1940s on Tuesday asked their country's highest court to restore their honour by quashing the verdicts.

"They did not want to be complicit in war crimes," their lawyer Liesbeth Zegveld told the Supreme Court in The Hague, adding: "they were seen as traitors to the nation."

A military court at the time sent Johannes van Luyn, 87, and Jan Maassen, 84, to two and three years behind bars for refusing to obey a call-up to travel to Indonesia to take part in the conflict which eventually led to the Asian country's independence in 1949.

Van Luyn and Maassen want the Dutch government to admit it was wrong to send them to jail and are asking the Supreme Court to quash the sentence and send it for a review based on "new facts."

Thousands of Indonesians died in the fighting, including in the village of Rawagede on Java island in 1947, where at least 150 men and boys were massacred by Dutch troops as their relatives looked on.

Authorities in the Netherlands say 150 people died while victims' relatives claim 431 lost their lives during an operation to root out a suspected independence fighter hiding in the village, known today as Balongsari.

"At the time of sentencing the judges were not aware of the nature and extent of the crimes," committed by the Dutch army, Zegveld told the judges.

Van Luyn said the two men wanted their names cleared.

"We don't want a cent, all we want is for our honour to be restored, for the courts to admit a mistake was made," he told AFP after the hearing.

More than six decades on, the Dutch role in the Indonesian war continues to be a sensitive subject in the Netherlands, which has recognised the existence and illegality of summary executions during the conflict.

Residents on Indonesia's Sulawesi Island claim some 40,000 people were killed in 1946-47 by the colonial Dutch army while conducting operations to look for opponents.

The Dutch government says there were between 3,000 to 5,000 deaths, according to figures quoted in local media.

In December 2011, The Hague formally apologised to the families of victims of the Rawagede massacre.