THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — The Dutch government must pay compensation to widows and children of Indonesian men summarily executed in their country's war for independence, according to a court ruling Wednesday that could open the door to many more claims.
The case is the latest legal battle to focus on atrocities committed by Dutch forces in Indonesia's bitter war for independence in the 1940s.
The Hague District Court ruled that nine elderly women, who live in Indonesia and weren't present for the decision, are widows "of men unlawfully executed under the responsibility of the Dutch state" and are entitled to damages.
Judges rejected the government's argument that the cases couldn't go ahead because the statute of limitations had expired. It also ruled that children of executed men are entitled to compensation.
"There is no good reason in the law to exclude the children, which is a huge step forward," said lawyer Liesbeth Zegveld, who represented the families.
The government had no immediate reaction to the ruling.
The Dutch government apologized in 2013 for atrocities committed by its forces in fighting between 1945, when Indonesia declared its independence from Dutch colonial rule, and 1949, when the Netherlands finally recognized independence.
In an earlier court case, the government was ordered to pay 20,000 euros each to another group of Indonesian widows, opening the doors to other widows to claim the same amount in out-of-court settlements. Wednesday's decision was significant because judges explicitly said that children also are entitled to damages.
The court didn't set an amount of compensation for the nine widows whose claims were accepted in Wednesday's ruling.
Jeffry Pondaag, chairman of a foundation that represents families of Indonesians killed under colonial rule, welcomed the judgment.
"It is very satisfying," he told The Associated Press. "They said the statute of limitations is off the table. That is good for the future. There will be more cases."