In this forum contribution Huw Bennett and Peter Romijn compare how British and Dutch authorities have dealt with reports on atrocities committed systematically by their own troops in the armed conflicts of decolonisation in Kenya and Indonesia, respectively. This comparison demonstrates the differences that existed in the Dutch and British dealing with and manipulation of information, the organisation of disinformation and the management of scandals, owing to the particular nature of the political and colonial systems in both empires. Despite these differences, it is clear that both the British and the Dutch authorities successfully applied a ‘management of scandal’ in order to avoid that critical reports on atrocities would be investigated thoroughly and would cause political trouble. Against the background of ingrained colonial practices and mentalities, both the British and Dutch government took absolute priority in ‘restoring their authority’ in these territories. Thus, the responsible authorities allowed their troops much room for manoeuvre in engaging the enemy. If necessary, they offered those responsible for atrocities the benefit of the doubt, thus institutionalising an informal culture of impunity.
Publication available in open access (Dutch)