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The Dutch king orders an investigation into the royals’ colonial past

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AMSTERDAM (RockedBuzz via Reuters) – Dutch King Willem-Alexander has commissioned independent research into the role of the royal family in the Netherlands’ colonial past, the Dutch Government Information Service (RVD) said on Thursday.

Three Dutch historians and a human rights expert will lead the investigation, which will last three years and cover the period from the late 16th century to the “postcolonial” present, the RVD said, without going into details.

“A deep knowledge of the past is essential to understand historical facts and developments and to see their impact on human beings and communities as clearly and honestly as possible,” the king said in a statement.

The Dutch government will later this month apologize for its role in slavery during the nation’s colonial past and is expected to donate some 200 million euros ($210 million) to a fund to promote awareness of the role of colonial power in slavery and 27 million euros to open a museum of slavery.

The announcement follows last year’s recommendation by an advisory committee that the government recognized that the 17th-19th century transatlantic slave trade constituted a crime against humanity.

The Dutch central bank earlier this year apologized for its role in the slave trade and said it would fund projects to raise awareness of slavery and mitigate the effects it still has on people.

The Dutch played an important role in the global slave trade from the 17th century until the Netherlands abolished slavery in the late 19th century.

With the commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the abolition next year, Surinamese advocacy groups and others are beefing up their claims for reparations for the descendants of enslaved people.

The Dutch West India Company operated ships that are estimated to have enslaved some 600,000 people for centuries, according to Dutch state figures. Enslaved people were violently forced to work in harsh and dehumanizing conditions on plantations in the Dutch overseas colonies in the Caribbean and South America.

In April, Dutch bank ABN Amro apologized for its legal predecessors’ similar involvement in the slave trade, plantation slavery and trade in slavery products.

(Reporting by Bart Meijer; Editing by Aurora Ellis)