Role of the Public Prosecution Service in Dutch criminal law

The Public Prosecution Service (OM) is the only institution in the Netherlands that can prosecute suspects. In the case of prosecution, the court decides whether the offence has been committed, whether the suspect should be punished and, if so, which punishment is appropriate.

Investigation and prosecution

The work of the OM consists of the investigation and prosecution of criminal offences. For this purpose, the OM cooperates with the police and other investigation services. The public prosecutor leads the investigation and monitors whether the investigation is conducted carefully and fairly. That is, according to the rules laid down by law and on the basis of all relevant information.

The public prosecutor decides if and when a case will be brought before the court. If that decision has been taken, the OM sends a summons to the suspect. The summons states the offence for which the public prosecutor intends to prosecute the suspect.

In the courtroom

In the courtroom, the public prosecutor accuses a suspect. During the hearing he explains what the suspect is accused of. After the judge has questioned the suspect about the case, the public prosecutor and the lawyer of the suspect are given the opportunity to put questions. The judge can hear the witnesses during the trial. Witnesses may also be examined by an examining magistrate. In his closing speech, the prosecutor tells the judge what he thinks of the case and demands a punishment.

Specifics of the MH17 criminal case

  • International investigation team

The investigation is being conducted by the international JIT MH17 investigation team, but the court case will be Dutch. This means that Dutch laws and regulations are applicable.

  • Victims and next of kin

In the Netherlands victims of serious crimes have the right to express their views on the consequences of the criminal offence during the hearing. Or about the punishment they think the defendant should receive. The next of kin of a victim also have a legal right to speak about the personal consequences of the death of their family member. Just like victims, they can submit a claim for compensation.

If a next of kin is unwilling or unable to speak, someone can speak on his or her behalf. A lawyer or Victim Support Netherlands can also help with this. The relative can also choose to make a written statement. This statement will be added to the criminal case file.

The number of affected families in the MH17 criminal case is large. The court determined how the right to speak will be implemented.