Dutch Government apologizes for slavery past in the Netherlands

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte during his speech at the National Archives in The Hague, Netherlands. Image by ANP (www.anp.nl).


THE HAGUE, THE NETHERLANDS – In a speech this afternoon, Prime Minister Mark Rutte apologized for the actions of the Dutch state in the past: posthumously to all enslaved people worldwide who suffered from that action, to their daughters and sons, and to all their descendants up to the here and now. The prime minister expressed his apology at the National Archives in The Hague in the presence of representatives of organizations that advocate recognition of the consequences of slavery. In Suriname and in Aruba, Curaçao, St. Maarten, Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba, members of the cabinet will enter into discussions after the speech with relevant organizations and authorities about what those apologies mean on site. 

Prime Minister Mark Rutte:
We are doing this, and we are doing this now, standing on the threshold of an important anniversary year, to find the way forward together. We don’t only share the past, but also the future. So today we are placing a comma, not a period.

The Prime Minister’s apology and talks by Cabinet members elsewhere are an important part of the Cabinet response to the report Chains of the Past presented in July 2021 by the advisory panel Dialogue Group on the Slavery Past. In it, the government is advised to proceed with recognition, apologies and reparations for slavery, in the Kingdom. The Cabinet response to the report was sent to the Senate and House of Representatives this afternoon.

After the speech, the prime minister, together with Vice Prime Ministers Kaag, Hoekstra and Schouten and Ministers Bruins Slot and Dijkgraaf, will engage in a private meeting with those present.

Cabinet reaction

The Cabinet is making a fund of 200 million euros available for measures in the field of awareness, involvement and impact. The programming and allocation of the fund will take place jointly with, among others, descendants and those involved.

In addition, the Cabinet proposes to establish an independent Commemoration Committee. In the coming years, this Commemoration Committee must ensure a grand, dignified commemoration of the slavery past on 1st of July , together with the Caribbean part of the Kingdom, Suriname and other countries. The cabinet wants to use the coming commemorative year 2023 to examine, together with social parties and the Commemoration Committee to be established, how the annual commemoration can be organized in a more lasting and dignified way and in a more coherent way.

The coming commemorative year, which begins on the 1st of July 2023, will include several large Kingdom-wide events. The King feels personally very involved and will be present at the commemoration and celebration in Amsterdam on the 1st of July. The upcoming commemorative year will offer plenty of room for social, cultural and educational initiatives from the community. 

Further steps

The government sees today’s apology as a first step. In addition to the apologies, the government announced in its response the intention to give the slavery past a firm place within education because that is the place where young people come into contact with history. 

The Cabinet is also committed to increasing knowledge and awareness through the preservation and further development of museums, archives and the protection of cultural heritage, both in the European Netherlands and in the Caribbean parts of the Kingdom and other countries involved. Consultations are held with Aruba, Curaçao, Sint Maarten, Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba about their specific wishes in these areas.  The Cabinet is also contributing to the development of a national slavery museum, with a knowledge center attached. Announced, multi-year research on the history of slavery will provide input to those institutions. In addition, it will be easier to change a slavery-related surname. 

For the horribly murdered Curaçao resistance hero Tula, the cabinet announces an official rehabilitation. The anticipated fund will also provide opportunities to appropriately honor other resistance fighters. 

Source: Press Release issued by RCN Rijksdienst.


  1. We do not wish to be fooled with fake excuses. Already the fake promises of the various Dutch governments are well known for decades.
    And, whatever the tokenism representatives like Vaarnold and Weerwind tell you, it must not be about money.

    The main strategy has a goal to strive for EQUALITY. And yes, just because the Dutch governments decided to spend much more money for white European Dutch people and the European part of the Netherlands, there is an enormous backlog in infrastructure, economy, health care, education, wealth, etc. on the islands.

    We find the demands for 40,000 euros disgusting, and absolutely not in line with the will of the mayority of the people on our 6 islands. These kind of irrational outings does set back the discussions. Just remember what happened in Russia 30 years ago when all got shares. That was the beginning of the era of Russian billionaires and even more inequality.

  2. A complete FAKE apology!
    Not meant at all, because it does not come from the heart.
    The words of Rutte are so carefully weighed to ensure that no legal action is possible based on these words. Be sure that King Pils will do the same.

    Apologies by people who themselves are not responsible for injustices of many decades ago is strange. The Dutch state is not the Dutch state of before 1863/73. Are children responsible for what their grandparents did? Or the grandparents of their grandparents? No, of course not. That is therefore the reason that Rutte found a way to tell something. Nothing is binding, because it is not possible to ask the question of guilt, and therefore no punishment or fine or compensation can be demanded by law. A false trick!

    We all know what injustice meant hundreds of years ago, how it resulted in enslavement, and how the inequality between groups of people endured the fictional emancipation by law. Real equality and equivalence between people means that the economic structure of exploitation and division of wealth should change. Poverty is just one of the consequences of enslavement.

    Talking about emancipation, and translating it in a museum, or seminars about diversity and inclusion or any other symbolic effort to lure people who have been deceived, disappointed, misused, exploited, abused, tortured, raped, for so long, is an attempt to freeze inequality and therefore injustice.

    And what does it bring us that the political elite spits some words of which THEY think that descendents of enslaved people would like to hear? Even with the black tokens of Weerwind, Afriyie, Vaarnold, and others, the focus is still on symbol policy. Martin Luther King and Malcolm X did warn for these kind of persons, who have other goals: themselves.