Timeline: important steps in the investigation and legal proceedings
What has happened since flight MH17 crashed on 17 July 2014? The timeline shows the important steps in the criminal investigation and the legal proceedings.
2014 - present
On 17 July 2014 Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 crashed in eastern Ukraine. The flight was on its way from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. There were 283 passengers and 15 crew members on board. Of those passengers, 196 were Dutch. All 298 occupants were killed.
An international team has been set up to establish the facts surrounding the MH17 disaster, to identify those responsible for the crash and to gather criminal evidence. This is called a Joint Investigation Team (JIT).
Countries that are affected by the air disaster work together in the JIT. These are: the Netherlands, Australia, Malaysia and Belgium. Ukraine, where the crash took place, is also a full member of the JIT. The Dutch Public Prosecution Service coordinates the international criminal investigation.
The crash of flight MH17 was caused by the detonation of a 9N314M-type warhead. That warhead was fired by a BUK missile system from the eastern part of Ukraine. So says the investigation report of the Dutch Safety Board (OVV) into the cause of the MH17 plane crash.
The Joint Investigation Team (JIT) is convinced that it has irrefutable evidence to establish that flight MH17 was shot down by a BUK missile from the 9M38 series. The firing location can also be proven, according to the JIT. This is an agricultural field near Pervomaiskyi, which at that time was controlled by separatists.
5 July 2017Prosecution and trial of those who can be held accountable for the MH17 plane crash will take place in the Netherlands
The prosecution of suspects for the downing of flight MH17 will be conducted in the Netherlands under Dutch law. The JIT countries (Australia, Belgium, Malaysia, Ukraine and the Netherlands) have taken this decision together. On 7 July 2017, the Netherlands signed a bilateral agreement with Ukraine for the transfer of prosecution. This makes it possible to prosecute the perpetrators for all victims and not just for the Dutch victims.
The establishment of a UN tribunal to prosecute those who can be held accountable for the plane crash was vetoed earlier by the Russian Federation in the UN Security Council. The JIT countries then investigated other options for prosecution and trial. They concluded that the case could best be conducted in the Netherlands.
The Joint Investigation Team (JIT) is convinced that the BUK TELAR used to shoot down MH17 originated from the 53rd Anti-Aircraft Missile Brigade. The 53rd Brigade is a unit of the Russian armed forces from Kursk in the Russian Federation. The JIT draws this conclusion based on extensive comparative criminal investigation.
The Netherlands, together with Australia, holds Russia responsible for its share in the downing of flight MH17. The claim of responsibility is made on the basis of international law. It runs parallel to the criminal investigation and the MH17 trial. Next of kin have also filed proceedings against Russia because of the involvement in the MH17 plane crash.
The Public Prosecution Service of the Netherlands will prosecute four suspects for bringing down Malaysia Airlines flight MH17:
- Igor Vsevolodovich GIRKIN (17-12-1970), Russian nationality
- Sergey Nikolayevich DUBINSKIY (09 -08- 1962), Russian nationality
- Oleg Yuldashevich PULATOV (24-07-1966), Russian nationality
- Leonid Volodymyrovych KHARCHENKO (10-01-1972), Ukrainian nationality
The Public Prosecution Service alleges the four cooperated to obtain and deploy the BUK TELAR at the firing location with the aim of shooting down an aircraft.
The Public Prosecution Service has summoned the suspects to appear in court on 9 March 2020. The writ of summons also states which charges have been brought against the suspects by the Public Prosecution Service.
The first session of The District Court of The Hague was mainly intended to see whether procedures were followed correctly, whether suspects appeared and whether the defense or the Public Prosecution Service had any wishes.
None of the four suspects have appeared. One of them, Oleg Yuldashevich Pulatov, is represented by two lawyers. The court has determined that the other three suspects are aware of the start of the trial and have chosen not to come, nor to send a lawyer. Their case will be heard in absentia.
The public prosecutor has brought charges against the four suspects. The names of the 298 victims were also read. In the opening statement, the Public Prosecution Service provided an explanation of the file: the context of the criminal proceedings, the choices in the prosecution and the position of the Public Prosecution Service with regard to the suspects, the witnesses and the next of kin.
In addition to the Public Prosecution Service, the defense and the legal assistance team of the next of kin also spoke.
The public prosecutors provided an explanation of the status of the investigation. They also explained what applications they make in regard to further investigation.
The relatives' legal aid team also submitted wishes. Mr. Pulatov's lawyers have not yet taken a position on the investigative wishes. They are not yet sufficiently aware of the case file for this.
This court session took place without audience and press, but could be followed via the live stream. The court has made decisions about the investigative wishes of the Public Prosecution Service. The court also responded to the requests of the defense and the legal assistance team of the next of kin. The session was adjourned until June 8, 2020 at 10:00 AM CET.
The Netherlands Public Prosecution Service provided an extensive overview of the criminal investigation in the MH17-case. The prosecutors presented the various investigations and explained how these were conducted. The goal of the explanation of the comprehensive criminal file:
- to help the court and the defence form their judgment on whether the investigation is complete and whether it is ready for the proceedings of the merits of the case.
- to be publicly accountable for the criminal investigations and the choices that were made.
Conclusions have not yet been presented. This will happen later, during the substantive treatment of the case. The prosecution asked the court to decide no later than 3 July 2020 on the planning and the way the merits of the case will be held.
On 26 June 2020 the Public Prosecution Service has reacted on the requests of the defence.
On 3 July 2020 the Court has rendered an interlocutory decision on requests and applications made by the defence, counsel for MH17 relatives and the Public Prosecution Service. Click here to see the complete text of the interlocutary decision in Dutch.
Reaction of the Netherlands Public Prosecution Service on the requests of the counsel for MH17 relatives.
Reaction of the Netherlands Public Prosecution Service on the requests of the defence.
The court delivered an interlocutory decision, which comprises rulings on the requests for investigation submitted by the defence, the counsel for the relatives and the Public Prosecution Service at previous hearings. This decision marks the end of the pretrial stage in the proceedings.
On 25 November 2020 the court referred the case to the investigating judge for additional investigation. On 1 Februari 2021 the current state of play in the ongoing investigation was discussed and the Public Prosecution Service reacted on the requests of the defence.
On 15 and 16 April 2021 the current state of play in the ongoing investigation was discussed and the Public Prosecution Service reacted on additional requests of the defence.
The court decides on the additional investigation requests submitted by the defense on April 15. Among other things, it is decided whether the claims for compensation of the MH17 relatives can be handled in this case.
The agenda for the judicial site visit (inspection of the MH17 reconstruction) on 26 May 2021 has been set.
The court visited the MH17 reconstruction in Gilze-Rijen. The judicial site visit could be followed via a livestream.
On 7 June 2021 the trial proper opened in the MH17 criminal proceedings. On this first day the topics discussed included the state of play in the investigation by the investigating judge and a brief recap of the inspection. The court also delivered an introduction to the discussion of the prosecution file in the days ahead.
On June 8, 9 and 10 June 2021 the court discusses the highlights of the documents in the criminal files addressing these questions:
- Was flight MH17 shot down with a BUK missile?
- Was a BUK missile launched from a farm field near Pervomaiskyi?
- Did the(se) accused play a role in this?
On 17 June 2021 the Public Prosecution Service discussed sections of the case file that the prosecution deems relevant for the decisions to be taken by the court. The presentation did not provide a full picture of all relevant evidence.
MH17: court session 17 June 2021
On 24 June 2021 the Public Prosecution Service responded to the investigative wishes of the defense made on 21 May, 7 June and 24 June.