Legislative proposals submitted to Dutch House of Representatives for criminal proceedings related to downing of MH17

Any future MH17 proceedings will be heard by the District Court of The Hague and will cover all victims of the downing of flight MH17, regardless of their nationality. These two legislative proposals were submitted to the Dutch House of Representatives today by Minister of Justice and Security Grapperhaus and Minister of Foreign Affairs Blok. The legislative proposals serve to implement the decision to have the prosecution and adjudication of crimes connected with the downing of flight MH17 take place in the Netherlands.

They also implement the bilateral treaty established with Ukraine on international legal cooperation regarding MH17. Such a procedure will eliminate any doubt that the prosecution of possible suspects in the downing of flight MH17 will be able to take place on behalf of all 298 victims. This will give all surviving relatives the same rights in Dutch legal proceedings.

In July 2017, the countries whose investigative authorities together make up the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) – Australia, Belgium, Malaysia, Ukraine and the Netherlands – jointly decided on the national prosecution and trial of the MH17 suspects in 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. Timely preparation of the legislation for the implementation of a possible trial is important in order to be ready if a decision to prosecute is made.

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 in order to maximise the chance of a trial.

National prosecution and adjudication in the Netherlands means that Dutch prosecutors, lawyers and judges will be handling the various cases, and that proceedings will be conducted in accordance with Dutch criminal law and procedure. Concurrently, it is important to consider the international aspects of criminal proceedings in respect of the downing of flight MH17 as much as possible, within this legal framework.

The fruitful cooperation between the JIT countries shall continue during the prosecution and adjudication phase. In addition, the other JIT countries will provide or continue to provide political and financial support for the prosecution and adjudication in the Netherlands. The Netherlands also made separate agreements with Ukraine for prosecution and adjudication in the form of the treaty presently submitted for approval to the House of Representatives.

Among other things, the legislative proposals arrange for the proceedings to be heard by the District Court of the Hague. A suitable location is currently still being explored.

The proposals also provide for the possibility to use the English language during the proceedings and to put suspects who will not or cannot be extradited to the Netherlands on trial by video conference. In addition, provisions have been made on the transfer of criminal proceedings with regard to foreign nationals domiciled or resident outside of the Netherlands. This addition is important, as the Ukrainian constitution prohibits the extradition of Ukrainian citizens.