Dutch colonial army crimes cannot be prosecuted

Prosecutors said Friday it was too late to bring to trial Dutch soldiers who committed atrocities in the Netherlands' former colony of Indonesia in the 1940s, including a village massacre that left at least 150 dead.

"The public prosecution services have concluded that the right to prosecution in these cases has fallen away because of the statute of limitations," the services said in an online statement.

Public prosecutors probed the alleged crimes after a request in January by a organisation representing Indonesian victims.

The request came after a Dutch court in September found the Dutch state responsible for executions committed by its colonial army in 1947 in the village of Rawagede, on Indonesia's Java island.

The Hague-based court ruled in favour of eight widows and a survivor of the massacre during Indonesia's fight for independence, where men and boys were executed by the colonial Dutch army as relatives and friends 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.

Prosecutors also investigated other alleged crimes committed in 1946-47 on Sulawesi island, where residents claimed some 40,000 Indonesians were killed 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 the Dutch media.

Prosecutors said because of the statute of limitations, it meant even the most serious crimes became void after 24 years -- in 1971.

"The public prosecution services realise that this decision will be very unsatisfactory for relatives and others involved, but it can come to no other conclusion from a legal point of view," it added.

The Dutch government formally apologised in December to the families of victims of the Rawagede massacre.

The Netherlands colonised Indonesia from the early 17th century. The Asian country gained independence in 1949.

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