JIT countries opt for MH17 prosecution in the Netherlands

The prosecution of those responsible for downing Malaysia Airways flight MH17 can take place in the Netherlands. This was decided jointly by the countries whose law enforcement authorities are working together in the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) – Australia, Belgium, Malaysia, Ukraine and the Netherlands. The criminal investigation, which is being conducted by the JIT, is still ongoing. At the appropriate time the Dutch Public Prosecution Service will take the necessary decisions concerning prosecution. The national prosecution in the Netherlands will be rooted in close and enduring international cooperation and support. The decision to opt for the Dutch national justice system is an important step towards bringing those responsible for downing flight MH17 to justice.

Justice minister Stef Blok and foreign minister Bert Koenders informed the House of Representatives of this decision by letter today. After the Russian Federation vetoed a UN tribunal in the Security Council on 29 July 2015, the JIT countries examined other options for prosecution and trial. The legal aspects of two options were explored in greater detail: a new international tribunal and a national prosecution conducted in and by one of the JIT countries.

Moving forward

The Public Prosecution Service recently informed the government that the JIT’s criminal investigation required that a decision be made on the manner in which a prosecution and trial would take place. In order to move forward with the criminal investigation, clarity is needed on the applicable legal framework for prosecution.

The investigation into those responsible for the downing of flight MH17 is a time-consuming process, and progress is gradually being made. A thorough investigation is being conducted of persons who can be held responsible. It is essential that the JIT can move forward with the investigation in full independence and without any political interference, so as to maximise the likelihood of a prosecution and trial.

All the JIT countries have expressed their full confidence in the Dutch justice system. The Public Prosecution Service has issued a recommendation regarding the two prosecution options that were explored. On the basis of this overall picture, the Dutch government has joined the other JIT countries in expressing a preference for national prosecution in the Netherlands. The Dutch justice system has an excellent international reputation. The trial can take place within the tried and tested framework of Dutch criminal justice proceedings. Moreover, the position of next-of-kin is firmly safeguarded in the Dutch system.

International cooperation

A national prosecution in the Netherlands will require various details to be fleshed out. For instance, a treaty will have to be concluded with Ukraine to provide for the transfer of criminal proceedings. This will make it possible to prosecute the perpetrators in respect of all the victims, not just the Dutch nationals. This agreement will be signed on 7 July and submitted to the House of Representatives along with the implementing legislation as soon as possible. In addition, the close cooperation among the JIT countries will be reaffirmed, most likely this year, by the signing of  Memorandums of Understanding (MoU’s) by all the countries involved, pledging their long-term political and financial commitment to the prosecution.