Netherlands East Indies’ War Crimes Trials in the Face of Decolonization

  • Lisette Schouten
Part of the World Histories of Crime, Culture and Violence book series (WHCCV)


With the Second World War still raging on, representatives of the Allied governments gathered in a number of organizations such as the London International Assembly, the International Commission for Penal Reform and Development and the United Nations War Crimes Commission, to address the use of legal means to confront war crimes and to establish a practical scheme for the prosecution and punishment of war criminals. Through the likes of Dr. de Moor and Captain-Lieutenant Mouton, the Netherlands took an active role in these first international efforts, determined to contribute towards the adjudication of international crimes. As a result of this Allied exertion, the Axis ‘arch criminals’ were put on trial at the International Military Tribunals in Nuremberg and Tokyo, while numerous ‘lesser perpetrators’ were sentenced in national war crimes courts. The Netherlands established national courts in Europe as well as in their colony of the Netherlands East Indies. Unlike in the motherland, where peace had been re-established, Netherlands Indies postwar justice took place in a period of great internal turmoil and fast-changing international political relations. As a result of the precarious Dutch political position and the Netherlands’ double experience with war crimes both at home and in its colony, different perceptions emerged of what was acceptable in times of war and what was indeed punishable action. Misbehavior condemned by Dutch temporary courts-martial over sentencing of Japanese war criminals, was for example displayed by the Dutch military against Indonesian forces at the same time, while war crimes trial regulations were used to convict Indonesian independence fighters. This chapter shows that in the Netherlands East Indies, postwar justice was contextualized and partial, as the political situation heavily influenced the policy and outcome of the trials.

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2016

Open Access This chapter is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial License, which permits any noncommercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author(s) and source are credited.

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lisette Schouten
    • 1
  1. 1.Heidelberg UniversityHeidelbergGermany

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