Netherlands tortured people in prison camps during Indonesian war of independence

AMSTERDAM - Between 1945 and 1949, the Netherlands tortured residents of Bali in prison camps on the island. Many Balinese people were also executed in these camps, concluded historian Anne-Lot Hoek in her doctorate research. According to Hoek, the Netherlands deliberately concealed the torture and execution of Indonesian independence fighters, reports.

In 1969, the Dutch government concluded that the Netherlands behaved "correctly" during the Indonesian war of independence. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs reiterated that position in 2018. But according to Hoek, nothing is further from the truth. The Dutch "authorities looked away, participated, encouraged or even gave orders to torture or kill," she said to the newspaper.

In Bali, the Dutch military worked closely with Balinese monarchs who had remained loyal to Dutch rule. According to Hoek, the Netherlands did not have a preconceived plan to set up a system of torture camps. But turned to these camps due to the fierce resistance to the return of the Dutch after the Japanese occupation during the Second World War.  "A large part of the population opposed colonial reoccupation," Hoek said.

Hoek found 25 prison camps, school buildings, police stations, and other locations where Balinese freedom fighters were tortured. She also found another 25 sites where prisoners were detained. She called it "painful" that the Dutch authorities did not shy away from arming Balinese against each other in a very "colonial way."

"It is important for Dutch society to understand what colonial thinking and action led to in Indonesia after the Second World War and what the impact has been on the Indonesian population," Hoek told

Hoek used archives, letters, and diaries for her research. The historian also spoke to 120 Dutch and Indonesian eyewitnesses, including veterans, survivors of the torture camps, and relatives of killed freedom fighters.

The government also commissioned a large-scale investigation into war crimes committed in Indonesia. The results are expected in February next year. The Cabinet will await those results before reassessing the Dutch army's actions in Indonesia, spokespersons for the Ministries of Defense and Foreign Affairs told

In 2019, the Court of Appeals in The Hague held the Dutch State liable 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 children of Indonesians executed in Bali have demanded compensation. Early this month, the Ministry of Defense told that it assumes more than these 19 people's parents were executed by the Netherlands without trial.


Last year, Dutch King Willem-Alexander apologized for the Netherlands' colonial past in Indonesia and the excessive violence of Dutch forces during the war for independence. "In line with earlier statements by my government, I would like to express and repeat regrets and apologies for the excessive violence on the part of the Dutch in those years. I do so in the full realization that the pain and sorrow of the families affected continue to be felt today."

Related News