The Netherlands, Australia say Russia is liable for shooting down MH17

The Netherlands and Australia are both holding Russia liable for its role in the shooting down of flight MH17 in July 2014, Dutch foreign minister Stef Blok said in a statement on Friday. The decision to hold Russia responsible follows on from Thursday’s report by investigators looking into the crash, who said the Buk missile which brought down the plane was fired by a weapons system in the hands of a Russian brigade. ‘The downing of flight MH17 caused unimaginable suffering,’ Blok said. ‘On the basis of the JIT’s conclusions, the Netherlands and Australia are now convinced that Russia is responsible for the deployment of the Buk installation that was used to down MH17. The government is now taking the next step by formally holding Russia accountable.’ The two countries have now asked Russia to enter into talks aimed at finding a solution and do justice to the suffering and damage caused by disaster, the statement said. A possible next step is to present the case to an international court or organisation for their judgment. Holding Russia accountable for its part in the downing of flight MH17 is separate from the criminal investigation and any prosecution and trial of the perpetrators of the downing of flight MH17. ‘We call on Russia to accept its responsibility and cooperate fully with the process to establish the truth and achieve justice for the victims of flight MH17 and their next of kin,’ Blok said. The EU and Nato have also urged Russia to accept responsibility for the incident. Russia Russia, on Thursday, issued a statement denying all responsibility for the air disaster, in which nearly 300 people died. ‘Not one Russian missile has crossed the border between Russia and Ukraine,’ Dutch media quoted the Russian ministry of defence as saying. Piet Ploeg of the relatives foundation Vliegramp MH17 told broadcaster NOS he now expects the Dutch government to take action, for example, by taking Russia to court for complicity in the downing of the plane. ‘Until now, everyone has been cautious, but now it is being openly said that Russia kept the information presented today to itself, Ploeg said.  More >

Bellingcat claims new lead in MH17 probe

Online investigation group Bellingcat said on Friday it had identified a second Russian military official who had a major role in the downing of flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine in 2014. The collective says its research points the finger at Oleg Ivannikov, who operated under the code name Orion. Ivannikov was in charge of the armed forces in the ‘people’s republic of Lugansk’, a rebel-held area in eastern Ukraine, Bellingcat said. Telephone taps and other evidence have led Bellingcat to conclude that he was directly involved in moving the Buk missile system to and from Ukraine. Bellingcat earlier identified the source of the missile system as the 53ste anti-aircraft missile brigade, which the Dutch investigation team confirmed on Thursday. Last December, Bellingcat said it had identified a man heard speaking on a number of intercepted phone calls as Russian general Nikolai Fedorovich Tkachev following voice analysis. The identity of the owner of the voice, known as Delfin, is considered key to the investigation and in 2016 the investigation team appealed for help in identifying him and Orion, whom Bellingcat now claims to have found  More >

Women want compensation for slave labour

In the Netherlands at least 15,000 young girls and women were forced to work in the laundries and sewing rooms of the Catholic order of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd between 1860 and 1973, according to research by the NRC. Five of the women now want the abuse they suffered to be recognised and the money they were denied to be paid to them. The sisters of the Good Shepherd had homes all over Europe, Canada and Australia where girls were forced to work, with some of the most notorious abuse taking place in the Magdalene laundries in Ireland. In the Netherlands, where the order ran homes in Zoeterwoude, Almelo, Velp and Tilburg, girls -  prostitutes or unmarried mothers but more often orphans, disabled girls or girls convicted for petty crime - were put into the homes against their will by parents and official child protection organisations until the early 1970s. Work therapy Once in the home the chores, presented as ‘work therapy’ turned out to be forced labour in what was in fact a textile factory with clients such as hospitals, hotels, the church and the government. In 1933 an order for 40,000 army shirts was given to the nuns. In Velp the girls even made the dowry of the late princess Juliana, the paper writes. Apart from hard unpaid labour the inmates of the homes were also subjected to sexual abuse, harsh punishments and a lack of medical care and education. Investigation The five women, who asked the NRC to investigate their case, are seeking justice and an independent government investigation into the practices. The sisters told the NRC that they apologised to the women last year but that they won’t be paying any compensation because the claim ‘became time-barred some time ago’. If the investigation is to go ahead it will be the first time the Good Shepherd practices will be investigated in the Netherlands. An investigation into sexual abuse in the church in 2010 and, more specifically, violence against underage women in 2013, failed to include the homes. Remit According to women’s platform VPKK, which supports the five women, investigative committee member Pieter Kalbfleisch said forced labour did not fall within the remit of the investigation. ‘Hard work has never done anyone any harm’, he is said to have commented at the time. Kalbfleisch was not available for comment, the paper writes.  More >

A good brew: homelessness firm wins prize

A start-up company that wants to solve homelessness by training people to work as baristas won a $350,000 award in Amsterdam on Thursday night. Change Please, a London-based firm which pledges to train, help house and pay homeless people a ‘living wage’, won the Chivas Venture 2018 prize. The pitching process and ceremony was held at The Next Web Conference for start-ups, in Amsterdam's Westerpark, and judges included the Black Eyed Peas pop star and actor Cemal Ezel, who founded Change Please after being inspired by a tea shop run by a deaf woman in Vietnam, said has now offered to help with business connections in Los Angeles. ‘The margins on a cup of coffee are huge,’ he told ‘Homelessness is getting worse, and we are using that additional margin for good.’ His company, which has 22 outlets in the UK, sells its own fair-trade roasted coffee beans in 375 British stores, and serves businesses such as PWC, is aiming to launch in the United States this year and franchise its idea across the UK and America. He claims that 82% of the people he has helped still work for his business, or have a job, a year later. The awards also gave prizes of $200,000 to Mestic, a Dutch company that aims to make fibre from manure waste, and $100,000 to the Spanish BraiBook, an invention to translate text into braille and audio instantly. BraiBook also won the audience-voted award of $50,000. Waterless toilet Other finalists, also awarded $50,000, were change: WATER Labs, which has developed a waterless toilet for refugee camps and cities without sewage infrastructure, and The Picha Project, which provides employment for refugees in Malaysia by linking home cooks with caterers, companies and students who want to buy a meal. ‘Profit and positive social impact can co-exist,’ said, in a speech at the event. ‘Solving the challenges is good business. Uber helped solve racial profiling problems when [cabs] wouldn’t stop for a customer for fear of being robbed. The powers that be don’t want to see change happen. It is happening, but it all starts with solving a problem in society and being fearless.’ The Chivas Venture has given $3million to startups – taking no equity – since starting the annual competition in 2014, and Pernod Ricard chairman and chief executive Alexandre Ricard added: ‘It brings together entrepreneurs and innovators who are having a real impact on the world and changing the way we do business.’  More >

Dutch MPs query Rwanda sponsorship deal

Dutch MPs have asked aid minister Sigrid Kaag to look into the recent sponsorship deal signed between African country Rwanda and London football club Arsenal, broadcaster NOS said on Friday. In particular, MPs want to know why a country which receives so much aid from the Netherlands is able to invest €30m in sponsoring the club's shirts. VVD MPs want the minister to raise the issue with Rwanda itself. GroenLinks MP Isabelle Diks said it is disheartening to see such payments being made, while the international community is trying to tackle the poverty. The deal, signed on Wednesday, means Arsenal players will sport 'Visit Rwanda' on the sleeves of their shirts for the next three years. The aim is to promote tourism to the east African country, particularly to the national parks. Rwanda is one of 15 countries where the Netherlands focuses its aid efforts.  More >

Dutch staffing agency looks to Asia

Dutch staffing agency Otto Work Force is planning to start supplying 'cheap' Asian migrant labour to Europe, starting with Poland, the company's founder Frank van Gool told the Financieele Dagblad. The company, in which Japanese company Outsourcing recently took a 56% stake, turned over €350m last year, supplying mainly Polish, Slovakian and Bulgarian workers to other countries in Europe. Now the company plans to bring in Asian workers to fill the gaps in the Polish workforce this year. Van Gool says he expects to be bringing Vietnamese and Filipino workers to the Netherlands and other west European countries within seven years. 'The Netherlands is not yet ready but will not be able to avoid using Asian workers in the longer term,' he said. 'The shortage of workers will be too big.' 'If the economy continues to grow, we will need millions of extra workers in Europe,' Van Gool said. 'We want to be ready.' Van Gool plans to start with Poland because, he says, eastern European countries are more flexible at giving permits. The Netherlands, he says, is much more difficult. 'The Poles who are here are not accepted,' he told the FD. 'Everyone thinks we are so friendly and multicultural, but partly due to Geert Wilders, that is no longer the case.'  More >

Electric car sales soar in the Netherlands

There are now some 22,000 electric cars on the Dutch roads, a 60% increase on a year ago, the national statistics office CBS said on Friday. By contrast, the number of hybrids rose just 1.6% to 97,000, the CBS said. In total, this means about 1.4% of cars in the Netherlands are entirely or partially powered by electricity, the CBS said. Changes to the taxes on hybrid cars is behind the collapse of hybrid sales, the CBS said.   More >