The criminal investigation into the events on 17 July 2014 is still ongoing. The Public Prosecution Service has not yet decided whether, and if so when, it will proceed to the prosecution of one or more suspects. It is therefore not known when the possible criminal case will be heard by the court.

If the Public Prosecution Service decides to prosecute, you will be informed in detail about your rights. In that case, in cooperation with the National Police and Victim Support Netherlands, a special meeting will be organised during which information will be given about the way in which criminal proceedings are conducted in the Netherlands and the rights of the next of kin during such a procedure. During the criminal proceedings you will be periodically informed about what is happening in the courtroom, even if you are unable or unwilling to attend.

Despite the fact that we have not arrived there yet, we now provide you with a brief, general explanation of the rights of next of kin in a Dutch criminal trial.

Rights of next of kin in general

The rights of next of kin in Dutch criminal proceedings are described in the Code of Criminal Procedure. Who is considered a next of kin within the criminal proceedings is also set out in the Code of Criminal Procedure. In short, this concerns partners, (grand) parents, (grand) children, brothers and sisters or cousins.

Below you can read briefly and in general terms about the rights of surviving relatives, based on the current regulations.

  • A relative is entitled to information about the criminal case. The Public Prosecution Service, Victim Support Netherlands and the National Police work together to provide victims and next of kin with the correct information in a timely manner.
  • A relative is entitled to receive help from Victim Support Netherlands.
  • A relative is entitled to a meeting with the public prosecutor prior to the hearing.
  • If relative wishes to have important, relevant information added to the criminal file, he can request the public prosecutor to do so.
  • A relative is allowed to submit a written victim statement in which he can describe what the crime has done to him and how he looks at the case.
  • During the criminal case, a victim or relative is allowed to use his right to speak so he can speak about the consequences the crime has had on him and how he looks at the case.  
  • A relative may request to be informed of procedural documents that are of interest to him.
  • A relative can be assisted by a lawyer or a person of his choice. The lawyer is free of charge for victims or next of kin from the moment the prosecution is instituted and if the offence has been committed in the Netherlands (or aboard a Dutch aircraft or ship).
  • If his damage has not yet been reimbursed in another way, a relative may submit a request for compensation. This may concern the costs for the funeral and the damage caused by missing out on living expenses. Next of kin cannot claim compensation for non-material damage within the criminal proceedings.

Your rights as a next of kin in the MH17 criminal case

When formulating the rights of victims and next of kin, the legislator naturally did not take into account a case of this size. The Public Prosecution Service has not had to deal with so many next of kins in one case before. The impact that the downing of flight MH17 has to this day, the immense number of next of kins and the fact that they live all over the world, requires a tailor-made approach.

Partly your rights have been filled in from the first moment: you have received assistance from family (police) counsellors and case managers from Victim Care Netherlands. You are also periodically informed by the JIT about the progress of the investigation, although we realise that the need for information will always be greater than the extent to which the JIT can share information.

Part of the rights mentioned above can only be exercised in the run-up to and during the trial phase.

With a view to the position of all next of kins, we will look for a way in which these rights can be fulfilled, without disproportionately burdening the trial at the hearing. That is a challenging job, in which the Public Prosecution Service is working together with the National Police and Victim Support Netherlands.

The court will be in charge during the hearing. This means that the judges who conduct the hearing also determine the manner in which certain rights are exercised, such as the right to speak.

In conclusion

The investigation is still in full progress and whether this will lead to a criminal case has not yet been decided. However, preparations are already being made to make a hearing in court possible in order to avoid unnecessary delays. Once it is clear that there will be a criminal trial, the public prosecutor, the National Police and Victim Support Netherlands will organise a meeting during which you will be informed about your rights in this specific case.

Justitieel Complex Schiphol
Justial Complex Schiphol (Photo: Dirk Verwoerd)

Judicial Complex Schiphol

In July 2017, the JIT countries jointly decided that suspects of the downing of flight MH17 can be prosecuted in the Netherlands according to Dutch criminal procedural law.  
The criminal trial, if it comes to that, will be heard by the Hague District Court. The hearing will then take place at the Judicial Complex Schiphol (JCS).