MORE MH17 DOCS RELEASED; DUTCH GOVT. ASSUMED RUSSIAN SEPARATIST TO BE RESPONSIBLE
by Janene Pieters
A court forced the Ministry of Security and Justice to publish more documents on the disaster with flight MH17 thanks to a joint call on the Freedom of Information Act by broadcasters NOS and RTL Nieuws and the Volkskrant. A number of new details were revealed, including that the Dutch government assumed from the first that Russian separatists were behind the downing of the plane.
The documents released are the interpretation in reports of the National Coordinator for Counterterrorism and Security written shortly after the disaster. It involves facts over what happened, the perpetrators and large problems expected to follow. RTL Nieuws published the documents on their website, they can be seenhere and here.
The Dutch government quickly realized that no one could have survived the crash and that there were probably many Dutch victims. They were right – 196 of the 298 victims were Dutch. “Given the images of the crash, the probability of survivors is nil”, the documents read. And: “(…) it is very likely that some of the victims are of Dutch nationality. Given the holiday period it is likely that there were several children on board.”
Officials also worried about major emotional unrest the disaster will cause. “The event will cause a lot of emotions given the high number of (Dutch) victims… If there are children among the victims that will increase the emotions… If there are signs that the plane was shot down, this will create an additional shock, especially if it was done intentionally.” The government held a close eye on opinion polls, the media and comments on social media.
The reports also reveal that senior officials initially wanted prosecution of the perpetrators to happen in the Netherlands. “Prosecution in the Netherlands is desirable.”
The documents also reveal how the government handled the aftermath and the problems they faced from day one, for example difficulties with therepatriation of victims. “The Netherlands is at risk of becoming a pawn in the propaganda war”, can be read in a Security and Justice report titled Risks and threats.
On July 23rd, six days after the disaster, the National Coordinator sent a piece to the crisis team of ministers that read: “The unguarded state of the disaster state and the reported compromise of wreckage reaffirm that investigation into the circumstances of the disaster will be difficult. There may also be need to take into account the possibility that not all bodies or body parts will be found or identified.”
The Day of National Mourning is also discussed in the documents. On July 22nd officials were discussing holding the mourning day on September 25th. It was also proposed to only have a dozen victims carried from Eindhoven Airbase to Hilversum in hearses, the rest in simpler coffins with army vehicles, “otherwise it will take too long”. But by shortly afterwards the Ministers decided to have the Day of National Mourning the next day, July 23rd. All arrangements for the ceremony were made in less than 24 hours.
The documents make clear how important the government found it to have family members centrally involved at all meetings.
The reports on meetings of the Special Ministerial are still completely confidential, according to RTL. The country lawyer that released the documents stated that the unity of government policy would be jeopardized if these reports were released. It would also make Ministers more hesitant to speak freely if the content of their confidential discussions are made public. The three news agencies therefore decided to continue their lawsuit against the government.