MH17 proceedings

MH17 proceedings

On Thursday, July 17, 2014, Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 crashed in Eastern Ukraine. All passengers, including 196 Dutch, were killed.

For the next of kin, a period starts with much sadness, anger, powerlessness and insecurity. This period is unfortunately still continuing. In addition, the bereaved will be confronted with various investigations and a number of legal proceedings.  

Because of her experience with (international) air disasters, SAP lawyers were called in almost immediately after the disaster to help the relatives in the various legal procedures (5):

When will the sessions of the criminal trial take place?

The MH17 process will initiate on the 9th of March 2020. On the 9th of March, the first phase will start, compromising the pre-trial reviews. It is unclear how much time these reviews will take. For this reason it is not yet decided when the substantive process will start.

The court of The Hague has reserved the Justititeel Complex Schiphol for the handling of the MH17 case on the following dates:

9th - 13th of March 2020
23rd – 27th of March 2020
8th of June – 3rd of July 2020
31st of August – 13th of November 2020
1st of February - 26th of March 2021

Other questions

How long will the criminal proceedings take?

The handling of the MH17 case will take several years. The expectation is that the process will take up to two to four years.

Who can attend the sessions of the criminal trial?

The handling of the MH17 case will take place in the Justitieel Complex Schiphol in Badhoevedorp (NL). The session will take place in session room D. Room D is designated for parties who have a fixed role in the process, such as the lawyers of the relatives (the “Rechtsbijstandsteam”; RBT) and the Public Prosecution Service. In the rooms directly next to room D, interested parties and journalists can follow the process via a live stream. In order to attend the trial as an interested party, you must register online via the court's website for security reasons. Without registration it is not possible to attend the session.

What is the legal basis for the MH17 criminal trial?

The countries that are part of the JIT (Joint Investigation Team) have established a treaty together that determines under what circumstances and at which location the trial will take place. This treaty was adopted by the States General of the Netherlands and subsequently the Act on Persecution and Trial of Suspects MH17 came into force. On the basis of this law, the court has jurisdiction to try the suspects.
The most important subjects in the treaty are:
The Netherlands has the jurisdiction to prosecute the suspects on behalf of the JIT countries;
Judgment takes place via a video conference;
Extradition of suspects;
The implementation of the penalties.

More questions

The various procedures:

1.Malaysia Airlines:
In the first phase after the disaster, this is the financial settlement with Malaysia Airlines (MAS). A core team MH17 is set up alongside our lawyer Sander de Lang and 5 other lawyers are also part of it. This core team represents the vast majority of the relatives in the settlement with MAS. If you want to know more about this first phase, click here.

Around 2016 most cases were settled with MAS. At that time there is also increasing clarity about the cause of the disaster and the second phase is coming. This is the phase in which we advise relatives to start actions against those responsible for the disaster.

For example, we recommend filing a complaint against Russia with the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). On the basis of the already available research results from the Dutch Safety Board (OVV) and the Joint Investigation Team (JIT), we believe we have sufficient evidence that Russia is responsible for the disaster. All clients of the MH17 core team decide to follow this advice.

The procedure at the ECHR has now completely erupted and at the beginning of January 2020, Russia responded substantively to the complaint of the next of kin. If you want to know more about the procedure at the ECHR click here. 

3.Criminal proceedings:
In mid-2019, the JIT announced that it had 4 suspects in the picture and transferred the case to the Public Prosecution Service (OM). The OM decides to prosecute these 4 suspects. The summons is issued and on March 9, 2020 the criminal proceedings against these suspects will begin.

It is agreed that the bereaved will also play an important role in the criminal proceedings. A legal assistance team (RBT) is set up consisting of 9 lawyers (the former core team MH17 supplemented with 2 criminal lawyers). This RBT will represent all surviving relatives in the criminal proceedings. If you want to know more about the criminal proceedings click here.     

4.State liability:
Based on the results of the JIT investigation, the Dutch government also decides to hold Russia liable. Among other things, this means that there is talk about this issue 'behind the scenes' between Russia and the Netherlands. We closely follow developments in this regard and are therefore in contact with all relevant authorities  

5.Proceedings against the financiers:
In addition to the above procedures, we have advised our clients to investigate the possibilities of a procedure against the financiers of those responsible. This research is in a final phase. More information about this will follow shortly. For more information about all ongoing procedures, please contact Sander de Lang (+31 (0) 33-4613028, )