Fired MH17 investigator thought his lecture was permitted

Ard van der Steur (Picture: Wikimedia Commons/VVD/Matthijs Idema)Ard van der Steur (Picture: Wikimedia Commons/VVD/Matthijs Idema)

George Maat, the physical anthropologist and anatomist who was first suspended and then fired from the MH17 investigation team after giving a lecture including graphic photos of MH17 victims, thought that he was allowed to give this lecture because others were also giving similar lectures.

This is according to the results of the exploratory investigation of the facts that the police conducted after Maat's lecture, Minister Ard van der Steur of Security and Justice wrote in a letter to the Tweede Kamer, lower house of parliament, RTL Nieuws reports.

One of Maat's colleagues gave a lecture to 30 members of the Dutch Association of Physical Anthropology. A dentist gave a lecture to colleagues on the use of teeth in the identification process. The head of the National Forensic Investigation Team gave a presentation to both Interpol and Twente's regional safety office. All these lectures contained graphic images of the MH17 disaster, including photos of the disaster.

According to the police, these presentations "radiated respect" and were given from a "professional perspective". Van der Steur writes that permission were given for these lectures.

Maat did not expressly ask permission to give his lecture, but thought that he could because his colleague was allowed. At least one of the photos Maat used may be traceable to a specific victim. Maat's lecture was to a group of students in the Health Sciences, but the lecture was also open to others. Maat was not aware of this.

The Minister conceded that Maat may not have known that he had to ask permission before giving the lecture. There were no prior agreements about confidentiality. "In the years grown work processes and habits of the National Forensic Investigation Team it was customary to give lectures to peers", the Minister wrote according to Elsevier. Van der Steur emphasized that it is important for experts to exchange knowledge through this type of presentation. But he added that "it lacked formal frameworks, appointments and criteria."

The police will now work out strict rules for the use of photos of victims at lectures. From now on explicit photos will only be used after the next of kin has given permission.