JIT countries choose the Netherlands for MH17 crash prosecution

The prosecution of suspects in the downing of flight MH17 can take place in the Netherlands. This is the collective decision of the countries whose investigative authorities together make up the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) - Australia, Belgium, Malaysia, Ukraine and the Netherlands. The criminal investigation being carried out by the JIT is still in progress. The Dutch Public Prosecution Service (OM) will take appropriate decisions regarding criminal prosecution at the appropriate time. The national proceedings in the Netherlands will be rooted in close and continued international cooperation and support. The choice of the Dutch legal system is an important step towards trying the suspects in the downing of flight MH17.

This was written in a letter from Minister Blok of Security and Justice and Minister Koenders of Foreign Affairs, presented to the House of Representatives today. After the Russian Federation’s veto of a UN-mandated tribunal in a UN Security Council meeting on 29 July 2015, the JIT countries looked into other possibilities for prosecution and trial. Two options were then considered in further legal detail, the establishment of a new international tribunal, or national proceedings conducted in and by one of the JIT countries.

Further steps

The OM recently informed the government that the JIT's criminal investigation requires a decision regarding the method of prosecution and trial. To be able to take further steps in the criminal investigation, clarity is needed as to the legal framework in which the proceedings will take place.
The investigation into those responsible for the downing of flight MH17 is a long and drawn-out task in which progress is made one step at a time. Extensive research is being conducted to identify individuals who can be held responsible. It is crucial that the JIT be able to take the subsequent steps in the investigation independently and without political interference in order to maximise the chance of a trial.
All JIT countries have expressed their full confidence in the Dutch legal system. The OM issued a recommendation on the two prosecution options under consideration. Based on this overall picture, the Dutch government also expressed its preference for national prosecution in the Netherlands. The Dutch legal system has an excellent international reputation. Trials can take place here within established and proven frameworks. Surviving relatives in the Netherlands are also well looked after within the process.

International cooperation

National prosecution in the Netherlands will still require the necessary preparations. For instance, a treaty with Ukraine is needed in order to arrange the transfer of criminal proceedings. This will allow the perpetrators to be tried on behalf of all victims, and not only those who were Dutch citizens. The treaty will be signed on 7 July and will be presented along with the implementing legislation to the House of Representatives for consideration as soon as possible. Furthermore, the close cooperation of the JIT partners is expected to be endorsed this year through the signing of Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) by all countries involved, in which they will make a long-term political and financial commitment to the prosecution efforts.