MH17 relatives to get free legal assistance in criminal trial

Relatives of those who died when flight MH17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine in 2014 can receive free legal assistance if they want to join the criminal proceedings as an aggrieved party, Minister Ferdinand Grapperhaus of Justice and Security said in a letter to parliament on Monday, ANP reports.

Once the trial has started, the family members can file a claim to recover the damages they suffered. Grapperhaus wrote that submitting these claims will legally be very complicated procedures. He therefore advises the relatives who want to do so to obtain expert advice on this matter. The intention is that the lawsuit against those responsible for the MH17 disaster will start within the next five years. It will be handled by the court in The Hague, but in the high security court at Schiphol.

Damages that have already been compensated to relatives through the insurance company or the airline can not be claimed again in the criminal proceedings. The family members will also not be able to claim affection damages, as the law that allows this was only implemented this year. 

Flight MH17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine on July 17th, 2014. All 298 people on board, including 196 Dutch, were killed. Investigation by the Dutch Safety Board and the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) so far revealed that the Malaysian Airlines flight was shot down by a BUK missile system from the 53rd Anti-aircraft Brigade of the Russian Armed Forces, fired from a field in Ukraine that was under the control of pro-Russian separatists at the time.

The JIT tracked a convoy of nearly 50 military vehicles, including the BUK that shot down MH17, from a 53rd Brigade parking area in Kursk to the border of Ukraine between June 23rd and 25th, 2014 - a few weeks before MH17 was shot down. Australia and the Netherlands officially held Russia accountable for its role in the MH17 disaster - providing the missile that shot down the plane - in May last year. 

In September Russia held a press conference in which the country said that the BUK missile was indeed made in Russia, but was in Ukrainian hands at the time of the disaster. Russia has been pointing the finger to Ukraine since the disaster happened. In October the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that it is willing to discuss MH17 liability with the Netherlands, "partly with the goal of looking professionally at the responsibility of Ukraine".

Tags: