Suspects for the MH17 plane crash can be prosecuted in the Netherlands

Photo: NBAAI via Dutch Safety Board

People suspected of shooting down the MH17 flight in 2014 can be prosecuted in the Netherlands, under Dutch law, reports the NOS on Wednesday.

This is the decision of the five countries that make up a Joint Investigation Team to co-operate in an ongoing criminal investigation.

It rejected the idea of setting up an international court because the laws of Australia, Belgium, Malaysia, Ukraine and The Netherlands are so different, while a posited United Nations tribunal was blocked two years ago by Russia.

Former security and justice minister Ard van der Steur had told Dutch parliament in a briefing last October that it should prepare for a prosecution in the Netherlands. Justice minister Stef Blok and foreign minister Bert Koenders confirmed this decision in a letter to parliament on Wednesday.

Of the 283 passengers and 15 crew members who died when the flight was shot down on July 17th 2014, 196 people were Dutch nationals. The JIT’s preliminary investigations concluded that it was shot down from Ukrainian farmland by a BUK missile ‘controlled by pro-Russian fighters’.

Although there are suspects, reports NOS, nobody has yet been charged and there are doubts about whether it would be possible to extradite anybody from Ukraine or Russia against their will. Suspects could be tried in absentia.

But, reports the NOS broadcaster, the Dutch justice minister would still need to undertake legal action before a trial could begin, regulating the transfer of criminal prosecution from Ukraine to the Netherlands to account for all victims, not just the Dutch.

JIT countries also need to agree to the political and financial costs of a prosecution.