It’s been nearly three years since Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was downed in eastern Ukraine. Two hundred and ninety-eight innocent people from 17 countries lost their lives that day. Since then, this terrible incident has had the full attention of the Netherlands, the other grieving nations and the rest of the international community. One day after the tragic event, the UN Security Council called for a thorough investigation and appropriate accountability.
At that time, the Dutch government set itself three priorities: the repatriation and identification of the victims, a technical investigation into the circumstances of the crash, and the prosecution and trial of those responsible. As Minister of Foreign Affairs, I attach great importance to close international cooperation in these areas. The countries that comprise the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) – Australia, Belgium, Malaysia, the Netherlands and Ukraine – joined forces to ensure that justice will prevail in this complicated case.
This cooperation is vital, given the complexity of this case. Flight MH17 was downed in a conflict zone which was the scene of heavy fighting and which is still difficult to access. We’re still seeing a great deal of disinformation and attempts to discredit the investigation. Nevertheless, major results have been achieved (such as the report of the investigation by the Dutch Safety Board and the JIT’s presentation of findings in September 2016). What’s more, the ongoing criminal investigation enjoys virtually unanimous support from the international community. MH17 has shown how a shared tragedy can lead to close international cooperation and a determination to see that justice is done.
The JIT countries have now decided that the suspects should be prosecuted in the Netherlands, a process that will be rooted in ongoing international cooperation and support. This means that the team’s cooperation will continue into the prosecution phase. Thanks to the MH17-treaty with Ukraine it will be possible for the prosecution to cover all the victims. This is important, given that the victims came from 17 different countries on five continents.
In this way the JIT countries are jointly heeding the Security Council’s call to hold those responsible for this incident to account. We have every confidence that we can continue to count on broad international support. And I will continue to do my utmost to ensure that this remains the case.