King Willem-Alexander and queen Maxima on Monday joined politicians and relatives at the unveiling of a memorial to the victims of flight MH17, which was downed by a missile over Ukraine three years ago to the day.
The Malaysia Airlines plane was on its way from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur when it was shot down, killing all 298 people on board. Most of the victims were Dutch.
Some 2,000 relatives of those who died attended the closed ceremony in Vijfhuizen, where the monument – a steel upward-looking eye 16 metres wide – was unveiled. The sculpture is surrounded by a ribbon wood made up of 298 trees, each with a plaque containing the name of one of the victims, representing growth, hope and life.
Monument designer Ronald Westerhuis told broadcaster NOS that to him, steel represents sadness. ‘If it rains you see the tracks of the water,’ he said. ‘And steel is transient, it rusts. And I hope that the sadness is transient as well.’
Earlier this month, it emerged that people suspected of shooting down the flight in 2014 can be prosecuted in the Netherlands, under Dutch law.
This decision was taken by the five countries that make up the Joint Investigation Team which is carrying out the 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.
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, 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.
On Sunday, 15 relatives of the victims held a silent demonstration outside the Russian embassy in The Hague to protest against ‘Russia’s obstruction of the investigation’.
The demonstrators called on Russia to honour the international agreements and cooperate fully with the investigation. In the park in front of the embassy, the demonstrators placed a bench with a plaque reading: ‘Waiting for responsibility and complete clarity. In memory of the victims of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17’. Part of the text is in Russian.
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