Hilversum commemorates 5th anniversary of MH17 disaster

Mayor Pieter Broertjes speaking at the commemoration on the 5th anniversary of the MH17 disaster in Hilversum, 17 July 2019
Mayor Pieter Broertjes speaking at the commemoration on the 5th anniversary of the MH17 disaster in Hilversum, 17 July 2019Photo: Gemeente Hilversum/Twitter

The municipality of Hilversum held a small-scale commemoration on the fifth anniversary of the MH17 disaster on Wednesday. "How fantastic that you are here on this sunny day. Five years ago, the sun also shone exuberantly until the terrible disaster happened. A thunderbolt in a clear sky, that is the feeling I had when we heard that it had been shot down", Hilversum mayor Pieter Broertjes said at the commemoration, NOS reports.

A larger, private memorial will be held at the National MH17 Monument in Vijfhuizen this afternoon. Hilversum also held its own commemoration at a monument in Dudokpark, because the municipality lost 15 of its residents when the Malaysia Airlines flight was shot down. The city also payed an important role in the aftermath of the disaster - the victims' remains were taken to a Hilversum barracks for identification.

In his speech, Broertjes spoke about the investigation into the perpetrators of the disaster, conducted by the Joint Investigation Team. Earlier this year, the JIT identified four suspects who will be prosecuted for their role in the downing of MH17. The trial starts in March next year.

"The main suspects finally have a name. And a face", Broertjes said. He hopes that the trial ends in a conviction, even if it is in absentia. "This long march towards finding the truth is necessary for the surviving relatives. Only then can they give the sadness a place, accept the fate. Life goes on, even though not a day is the same as before the MH17 disaster. We all feel it."

In addition to Broertjes, a surviving relative, a pastor and the city poet also spoke at the commemoration. 

The national commemoration of the MH17 disaster will be held at the National MH17 Monument in Vijfhuizen at 2:15 p.m. this afternoon. It is open only to invited guests. Prime Minister Mark Rutte, King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima will attend. A report on the memorial will be broadcast on NPO2 tonight. 

The MH17 criminal investigation:

Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was shot down over eastern Ukraine on July 17th, 2014. All 298 people on board, including 196 Dutch, were killed. In June 2019 the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) announced that the criminal trial against the first four suspects in this case - three Russians and one Ukrainian - will start on March 9th, 2020. 

Igor Girkin, Sergey Dubinskiy, Oleg Pulatov, and Ukrainian Leonid Kharchenko are suspected of playing crucial roles in delivering the missile system that shot down MH17. They will be prosecuted for causing the crash and leading to the death of everyone on board. They are also facing charges of murdering 298 passengers of MH17.

Investigation by the Dutch Safety Board and JIT previously 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.

In addition to the JIT criminal investigation, the Netherlands is also in talks with Russia about state liability. The Netherlands and Australia officially held Russia accountable for its role in the MH17 disaster - providing the BUK missile system with which the passenger plane was downed. 

According to the JIT, Russia is not cooperating with the investigation into the disaster, refusing to respond to requests for legal assistance. “We now have the information, have the proof, that the Russian Federation is involved in this tragedy, in this crime, one way or another.” Dutch Prosecutor Fred Westerbeke said in the press conference in June. 

Following the announcement of the first four suspects' prosecution,  the Russian Federation denounced the  "biased, one-sided nature of the inquiry". Minister Ferdinand Grapperhaus of Justice and Security announced that the Netherlands took "diplomatic steps" against Russia, in an attempt to force the country to cooperate with the JIT.