District Court of The Hague Starts MH17 Case Hearing on Merits

MH17 catastrophe

The hearing on the merits in the criminal proceedings over the downing of Flight MH17 en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur over Donbas started at the Schiphol Judicial Complex in the Netherlands.

Judges, prosecutors, lawyers of relatives of the victims, the defence team of defendant Oleg Pulatov, and journalists are present in the courtroom.

At the beginning of the hearing, Presiding Judge Hendrik Steenhuis said that none of the four defendants had appeared in court. He also noted that the MH17 case file consisted of about 65,000 pages and many hundreds of hours of visual and audio material. Therefore, only the main points, not all the details, would be discussed during the consideration of the case on the merits.

According to the preliminary schedule, this block of court hearings will last from 7 June to 25 June. In particular, the judges plan to discuss the following key questions:

– Weapon used to shoot down Flight MH17 (whether a Buk missile was used).

– Location of missile launch (field near Pervomaiske or other place).

– Role of four suspects in the downing of passenger flight.

The court also noted that the investigating judge had completed the interrogation of Belgian, Dutch, and Russian experts, but specialists from Russia’s Almaz-Antey concern should yet answer additional questions in writing.

On the eve of the hearing, the relatives of victims held a rally near the Russian Embassy in The Hague. In particular, 298 white chairs symbolising the victims of the tragedy were placed in front of the diplomatic mission. A minute of silence was observed in memory of the victims.

Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, was shot down on 17 July 2014. There were 283 passengers and 15 crew members, including 196 citizens of the Netherlands, on board. All of them died.

The international Joint Investigation Team concluded that the plane was shot down from a Buk missile system that belonged to the 53rd Anti-Aircraft Missile Brigade of the Russian Armed Forces.

Bohdan Marusyak

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