MH17 court case expected to last over a year

The MH17-repatriation mission at the crash site near the village of Grabovo (Photo: Rijksoverheid)The MH17-repatriation mission at the crash site near the village of Grabovo (Photo: Rijksoverheid)

The trial against four men suspected of involvement in the downing of flight MH17 will take over a year. The court in he Hague set different periods aside for the court case, starting on 9 March 2019 and ending on 26 March 2021. All in all, the court reserved 25 weeks in the high-security Schiphol Judicial Complex for the MH17 trial.

The trial is set to be one of the largest criminal proceedings in Dutch history. Even the law had to be amended for this trial to happen, according to NOS. The law was changed so that parts of the criminal case can be dealt with in English, and so that suspects can 'attend' the case via a video connection with other countries in exceptional cases. 

In June the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) announced that four men will be prosecuted for their involvement in the downing of flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine on 17 July 2014. 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, leading to the death of everyone on board. They are also facing charges of murdering 298 passengers and crew members of MH17.

The four suspects have been placed on international wanted lists, though the chance of them being arrested and actually present for their trial is considered to be negligible. 

The JIT believes that the Russian armed forces and even a senior official in the Kremlin were involved in delivering the BUK missile that downed MH17. Russian president Vladimir Putin has repeatedly denied that his country was involved in any way.

In addition to the legal investigation into the MH17 disaster, there will also be a factual investigation into the role Ukraine played. Central to this investigation is why the Ukrainian airspace was not closed over the conflict zone where MH17 was shot down. On Friday, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky promised that the country will cooperate with this investigation, during a visit from Dutch Foreign Affairs Minister Stef Blok, NOS reports.