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Twee eeuwen dienstplicht, discipline, dienstweigering en desertie.

Stan Meuwese, Twee eeuwen dienstplicht, discipline, dienstweigering en desertie. Oisterwijk: Wolf Legal Publishers, 2017, vii+932 pp. ISBN 9789462403635. Price: EUR 49.50 (hardback).

In more than 900 pages of small print with 3158 footnotes, Meuwese (1945) presents the first exhaustive study of conscription in the Netherlands in legal-historical perspective, starting in 1811 during the Napoleonic era. It looks at its formulation in the juridical framework of public law, how it was maintained and sanctioned, and how the evasion of military military service (staying away) and desertion (going away) were dealt with. A separate chapter, 'A Colonial War in the Emerald Girdle, 1945-1950' (pp. 455-518, with an addendum on the New Guinea conflict, 1950-1962 (pp. 529-533)), collects and orders an impressive amount of information on conscription in the extraordinary post-1945 circumstances. Meuwese first summarizes the data on the often forgotten conscription of Dutch citizens in the Indies, imposed for the KNIL since 1917. To restore Dutch sovereignty in 1945 the available military forces in Indonesia--former KNIL units--were inadequate. Soon it became clear that reinforcement with volunteers from the Netherlands would not be sufficient. The deployment of conscripts, however, was expressly forbidden in the Dutch Constitution. In hurried procedures, often on the brink of legality, but condoned by parliament, the advisory body Raad van State, and the judiciary, the legislation was laid down. Meuwese, who gives his candid and often harsh opinion whenever he deems it appropriate, calls the whole procedure unconstitutional, and the resort to emergency law misplaced. On this shaky basis 95,000 conscripts were sent to Indonesia, and became comrades-in-arms with 65,000 KNIL soldiers, 35,000 volunteers and 10,000 navy men. To maintain discipline courts-martial were established for the Army, KNIL, and Navy. These produced almost 7,500 sentences. Matters concerning evasion and desertion were mostly handled in the Netherlands. Of 4,000 deserters 2,500 were brought to court, and severe sentences were pronounced. As to conscientious objectors, official understanding was rare. Objectors for political reasons were not acknowledged. A number had communist sympathies, and were given longer sentences and experienced worse treatment in jail than other objectors. Meuwese concludes his illuminating account with a number of short biographies of young men who evaded or deserted.

Harry A. Poeze

KITLV/Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies

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Title Annotation:Recent Dutch-Language Publications
Author:Poeze, Harry A.
Publication:Journal of the Humanities and Social Sciences of Southeast Asia and Oceania
Article Type:Book review
Date:Apr 1, 2017
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