Speech at meeting next of kin of victims MH17 by Minister Blok
Speech at meeting with next of kin of victims MH17 by the Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs, Stef Blok in Kuala Lumpur on March 28th.
Dear next of kin,
Yang Berhormat, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Marzuki, Mr. Khairul, Deputy Secretary-General Yahya of the Ministry of Transport, Mr. Fuad, Director Malaysia Airlines, and his team,
A sad occasion brings us together today. Almost 5 years ago, Flight MH17 was downed on route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. For both our countries, and for many others, this was a tragic event. I can only begin to imagine your grief, as you all lost someone you loved on that fateful day. We will never forget them.
The MH17 Monument near Amsterdam Schiphol Airport is a permanent reminder of the 298 victims – passengers and crew alike. On behalf of the government of the Netherlands, I would like to give you a framed picture of this monument. A small token of remembrance. This meeting today is not for me, but for you. I would like to invite you to feel free to share anything that you want me to know. Also, of course, I am more than willing to answer any questions you might have. As an introduction, I will first say something about our efforts to establish truth, justice and accountability, and then go into how we aim to keep you, as next of kin, informed.
Immediately after the downing, the international community determined that the full truth behind the downing of MH17 must be known and that those responsible must be held to account. Truth, justice and accountability remain a top priority for my government, as well as for Malaysia and for many other grieving nations and sympathizing countries. As you know, the Joint Investigation Team, consisting of 5 countries including Malaysia, is working on a criminal case. As evidenced by the presentations they gave in May last year, and earlier in 2016, progress is being made in the criminal investigation. JIT-countries have decided that a possible prosecution of MH17 suspects will take place in the Netherlands, under Dutch Law.
Therefore, it will be up to the Dutch public prosecutor to decide if, and when, suspects will be indicted, but of course such an important decision will be discussed thoroughly with prosecutors of other JIT-countries.
Meanwhile, Dutch authorities have been working hard to make preparations for a trial to be held in the Netherlands. A location has been designated – a special court facility near Schiphol airport- and preparations for a possible trial are currently being made, ranging from security measures to logistic preparations. These measures include special features because of the unique international character of this case. For the additional costs, for example translation and an international press center, the JIT-countries have pledged their financial support in a Memorandum of Understanding that was signed last January. I would like to thank the Malaysian government for this commitment.
In parallel to the criminal track, last year the Netherlands and Australia also decided to hold the Russian Federation responsible under international law. A first step in this process is to talk with Russia about its part in the downing. The first round of trilateral talks between the Netherlands, Australia and Russia took place earlier this month. I cannot say more about the content of these talks, because confidentiality is vital for this process.
The governments of the Netherlands tries to keep you, as next of kin, informed as much as possible. Dutch cabinet members, myself included, meet regularly with representatives of Dutch next of kin.
Since 2014, our main channel of information to next of kin is the protected website, accessible only to next of kin. This website has been used from the very beginning. Information is provided in Dutch and English – I invite all of you to sign up, if you don’t have access to this website yet. In addition to the government-run portal, the MH17 Disaster Foundation for all next of kin has recently renewed and improved its website, which also has information in English. The Dutch public prosecutor also reaches out with information to next of kin. I would like to draw your attention to the E-magazine that was sent and published by the public prosecutor November last year. If a decision to prosecute is taken, the Dutch public prosecutor will inform next of kin of their concrete role and rights in a trial.
Earlier this year, my colleague the minister of Justice and Security sent a letter to Parliament outlining the position of next of kin in general. In this letter, the Dutch cabinet outlines that all next of kin – irrespective of their nationality – have certain rights in criminal proceedings in the Netherlands, including:
- the right to be informed about the start and progress of the case;
- the right (under certain conditions) to take note of the criminal file;
- the right to be represented by legal counsel;
- the right to speak in court and to address any issue you want to speak about.
Copies of this letter, in English, are available for you today.
Let me conclude by saying that, although I cannot take away your grief, my government is resolved to achieve truth, justice and accountability for all the victims of the downing of Flight MH17.
I greatly appreciate this opportunity to come here today and speak to you in person. I would like to learn from your perspective and experience, and will do my best to answer any questions you might have.