Speech Foreign Minister Bert Koenders in UN Security Council

Speech by the Netherlands Minister of Foreign Affairs Bert Koenders in the UN Security Council on the MH17 incident (New York, 29 July 2015)

Mr. President,

Thank you very much. I appreciate the opportunity to speak here today on behalf of the Netherlands and the Dutch people.

Today we recall the tragedy of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, which occurred a little over a year ago. We mourn all 298 men, women and children on board on that flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. Today is also the day that the pursuit of justice is called for.

On the 17th of July at the memorial service organised by the families of the victims, I saw once again how deeply this tragedy has wounded so many people in the Netherlands and in many other grieving nations.

196 Dutch citizens were killed. Innocent men, women and many, many children. Many more families and friends were left behind in despair and are wondering….…..why? Why them? Their wish, their desire, is for justice to be done. A cry for accountability, a cry for this important body to act.

In response to the incident, this Security Council adopted a crucial Resolution: Resolution 2166, condemning the downing of MH17 resulting in the terrible loss of so many lives , calling upon all parties involved to facilitate recovery and repatriation, and demanding those responsible be held to account. That resolution created hope. Hope for those who lost their loved ones.

My country has abided by this Resolution.

We set out a three step approach in close cooperation with other affected countries: First, repatriation and identification of the victims. Second, a thorough and independent investigation into the cause of the crash. And third, justice for the victims, and justice for those responsible.

The Netherlands has regularly and thoroughly informed this Council of the progress made on these three steps: first, all but two victims – both Dutch citizens – have been identified and repatriated. Second, the technical investigations into the cause of the crash are nearly complete, and the completely independent Dutch Safety Board is expected to release its final report in October. Third, the criminal investigation being carried out by the Joint Investigation Team set up by Australia, Belgium, Malaysia, Ukraine and the Netherlands is at a very advanced stage.

This brings us to our ultimate task: holding to account those directly or indirectly responsible for the downing of MH17 and bringing them to justice is not only our duty to the victims of this tragedy. This Council’s important resolution 2166 demands it.

In resolution 2166, the Council acknowledged its authority as well as its responsibility to see this matter through to its logical conclusion: by reaffirming the international legal prohibition of acts of violence that pose a threat to international civil aviation, by calling on all States to cooperate fully with the international investigation of the incident, and by demanding that, and I quote now Resolution 2166: ‘those responsible for this incident be held to account and that all States cooperate fully with efforts to establish accountability’,

This imposes an international obligation to prosecute the perpetrators.

Let me ask you this question. When the Council called upon all States to act in this way, did the Council not assume, that it too had a responsibility? After all this is the highest political institution representing the international community! When the Council decided to remain actively seized of the matter, did it not foresee a role for itself in guaranteeing compliance with the Resolution by all UN Member States, in the interest of all those who lost their lives that afternoon above the skies of the Ukraine?

On behalf of the Netherlands, Australia, Belgium and Ukraine, Malaysia presented to the Council a thorough and carefully drafted proposal for an international criminal tribunal, to be established under Chapter 7. Our purpose is to create a timely, depoliticized and credible mechanism to ensure that the perpetrators face justice and are held to account.

Mr. President,

We came to the Council with a desire to see justice done in the most effective, impartial and legitimate way, with the greatest possible chance of success.

I would like to thank those Council Members who have supported the Malaysian draft resolution and believe that this terrible crime deserves the attention of the Security Council and the best possible prosecution mechanism at our disposal.

And I express my deep disappointment that Russia has used its veto to stop the Council from actively ensuring that justice is served. My thoughts go out to the families of the victims who had placed their hope on the resolve of this Council by setting up this tribunal.

We listened carefully to the arguments and concerns Russia voiced. We engaged and answered all, I underline, all, its questions.

We made clear that this is the best way forward, giving the demand for accountability by the Security Council itself. The accountability process is duly underway and in line with international standards. It makes no sense at all for the Council to stop it here. As said, the Dutch Safety Board has finished the investigation into the cause (and will publish the report in October), the criminal investigation is well underway, now we should have acted in order to be ready for the follow-up.

We have made the case for a prosecution mechanism that transcends politics. The idea to establish a tribunal now, was born to ensure an independent and depoliticized procedure, before the results of these investigations would point at certain possible perpetrators.

I find it incomprehensible that a member of the Security Council obstructs justice in a tragedy that has affected so many. Impunity will give a very dangerous signal and will threaten the safety of civil aviation. The safety of all of us, the safety of you.

We, the countries working together on the criminal investigation, will not stop in our endeavour to ensure that those responsible for this violent act are held accountable. We have the support of many in this room and many more outside.

My country will not rest until all the facts are known and justice has been served.

We expect the world community to continue to cooperate with us in our efforts to bring the perpetrators to justice, in accordance with resolution 2166.

The Netherlands, Malaysia, Australia, Belgium and Ukraine will continue to work together to find the best way of prosecuting those responsible. We will continue working together to ensure justice is served. And we will lose no time to pursue this.

I thank you, Mr. President.