The Netherlands to give free legal aid for MH17 claims

THE HAGUE • The Netherlands will provide free legal advice to relatives of those killed in the downing of flight MH17 over Ukraine for damages claims, the Dutch justice minister said on Monday.

The Malaysia Airlines jet was shot down over war-torn eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014, killing all 298 on board.

The Boeing 777 passenger jet was hit by a Russian-made BUK missile while on a routine flight between Amsterdam and Kuala Lumpur.

In May 2018, the Netherlands and Australia blamed Russia for the disaster.

“Free legal aid is being arranged for relatives wanting to add themselves to the trial” with the aim of claiming for damages, Justice Minister Ferd Grapperhaus said.

The minister said he also asked justice policy experts within his department to investigate the consent requirements of suspects in using video conferencing in the MH17 prosecution process.

Dutch lawmakers last year approved a treaty signed bet- ween the Netherlands and Ukraine to ease the possible prosecution of those responsible for downing MH17 — including trying suspects through video link.

Local news reports said a trial was due to start within the next five years and would take place in a Dutch court, most likely in The Hague.

Grapperhaus, however, stressed that damage claims already paid out by parties other than the perpetrators — such as Malaysia Airlines and insurance companies —would not be reconsidered by the courts.

Although five countries — Australia, Belgium, Malaysia, the Netherlands and Ukraine — are investigating the disaster, the majority of victims on the flight were Dutch.

International investigators concluded that the BUK came from a Russian military brigade based in southwestern Kursk which crossed into Ukraine at the time.

Moscow has vehemently denied any responsibility. — AFP