MH17 de Doofpotdeal
Op deze pagina alles omtrent mijn boek ‘MH17 de Doofpotdeal’.
- Introductie van het boek
- De boekpresentatie in Nieuwspoort
- De introductie video/interview over het boek
- Een lijst met alle berichtgeving in de media (artikelen, recensies, radio, televisie/video’s)
Over het boek
Op 17 juli 2014 stortte een Boeing 777 van Malaysia Airlines (vlucht MH17) neer boven Oost-Oekraïne. Alle 298 inzittenden kwamen om het leven, waaronder 193 Nederlanders.
Nederland kreeg de leiding over het onderzoek naar de toedracht van de ramp, maar verbond zich met een doofpotdeal aan Kiev. En werd daarmee een pion in een internationaal politiek schaakspel.
Onverbloemde Koude Oorlog-retoriek maakt een comeback. Poetin is hierin de ultieme bad guy. Wat hij zegt wordt in het Westen als giftige propaganda bestempeld.
Inmiddels, zo lijkt het, lijden alle betrokkenen aan tunnelvisie. Kunnen we er nog gerust op zijn dat de onderzoekers onafhankelijk en objectief hun werk doen?
De Russen dragen materiaal aan dat suggereert dat de crash is veroorzaakt door óf een aanval van een Oekraïense straaljager óf door een met een Oekraïense BUK-M1 afgeschoten raket. Daarentegen gaan EU-landen en de VS ervan uit dat de separatisten in Oost-Oekraïne de Boeing, al dan niet per ongeluk, hebben neergeschoten.
In MH17: de Doofpotdeal maakt Joost Niemöller de tussenbalans op. De opvallendste feiten worden op een rij gezet en de belangrijkste theorieën – uit alle kampen – geëvalueerd. De auteur signaleert verontrustende ontwikkelingen en schetst een wereld waar grote belangen waarheidsvinding in de weg staan, een deal meer gewicht heeft dan forensisch materiaal.
De theorieën. De feiten. De deal.
Omvang: 168 pagina’s + 16 pagina’s illustraties (kleur)
ISBN: 978 90 490 2417 8
Prijs: € 14,95
Te koop in de boekhandel of via Bol.com.
Op 17 juli stortte vlucht MH17 neer en het enige waarover we steeds meer zeker kunnen zijn, is dat de Boeing 777 van Malaysia Airlines met militaire middelen uit de lucht is gehaald. Er wordt vaak gesproken van een aanslag, maar strikt genomen is dat ook niet zeker. Er wordt namelijk regelmatig gezegd dat het de separatisten waren die ‘per ongeluk’ met een raket het vliegtuig uit de lucht schoten. Vooralsnog weten we ook nog niet of het überhaupt wel de separatisten waren. Nu, we weten het niet, maar we denken het wel. Dat is natuurlijk ook niet zomaar. De separatisten schoten al een tijdje vliegtuigen uit de lucht. Oekraïense militaire vliegtuigen. En soms op meer dan vijfduizend meter hoogte. Dat is een goede reden om de separatisten te verdenken. Maar een bewijs is het natuurlijk niet. Nog niet eens het begin ervan.
Verreweg de meeste Nederlanders dachten in eerste instantie dat het de separatisten waren, afgaande op een opinie-onderzoek van Maurice de Hond, kort na de ramp. De meeste journalisten in Nederland zullen ook nu nog zeggen dat het de separatisten waren, en de meeste politici in Nederland doen dat. Al uiten politici zich een stuk voorzichtiger. Maar is het daarom ook waar? Met die vraag ben ik dit boek begonnen. Of liever gezegd: met de twijfel over de ‘waarheid’ die in Nederland hing. Gaandeweg vond ik heel veel wat niet in dit plaatje paste. Voor een deel op het internet. Maar ook waren er officiële bronnen, zoals een persconferentie van het Russische Ministerie van Defensie en een rapport van Russische ingenieurs, waarin de theorie uiteen wordt gezet dat de Boeing 777 werd aangevallen met een Oekraïense straaljager, eerst met een boordkanon, daarna met een raket uit de straaljager. De Russen kwamen met satellietfoto’s van Oekraïense Buk-M1 installaties en met radarbeelden van mogelijk een Oekraïense straaljager, dicht in de buurt van MH17. Zij gaven hun data aan de Onderzoeksraad voor Veiligheid. Die liet in hun tussentijdse rapport weten dat ze het materiaal ontvangen hadden. De Onderzoeksraad gebruikte de Russische radargegevens om vast te stellen wanneer het toestel van de radar verdween. Maar verder deden ze er niets mee. Niet alleen geen woord over een raket, zoals vaak in de media is opgemerkt, maar ook geen woord over een straaljager.
Gisteren publiceerde Der Spiegel een uitgebreid interview met Fred Westerbeke, de Nederlandse hoofdofficier van justitie. Hij gaf daarin aan welke kant het onderzoek van het OM uit gaat. Hij prees de goede samenwerking met Oekraïne. Der Spiegel refereert aan een eigen bericht en stelt weer eens wat de Nederlandse media ook steeds stellen: dat de Duitse geheime dienst Amerikaanse satellietfoto’s had laten zien aan Duitse parlementsleden in een geheim overleg. Maar dat stond niet in het oorspronkelijk bericht in Der Spiegel, waar alle heisa over begonnen was. Daarin werd gesproken over analyses van satellietfoto’s die waren voorgelegd. De ARD, die ook lekte uit dat geheime overleg, had het zelfs over plausibele opties. Er waren dus gewoon scenario’s voorgelegd door de Duitse geheime dienst. Een heel normale procedure. Niets daarover in de Nederlandse media. Iedereen blijft hier maar hartstochtelijk geloven in die Amerikaanse satellietfoto’s die op een keer onze tunnelvisie moeten bevestigen. Nu, dat die Amerikaanse satellietfoto’s er zijn, dat staat wel vast. Er hing, zeggen de Russen althans, precies op dat moment namelijk een satelliet boven de rampplek. Maar wat zal daarop te zien zijn? Misschien helemaal niet zoveel, want er hing een dicht wolkendek, zo leren we uit het voorlopig rapport van de Onderzoeksraad. Maar het geloof in de satellietfoto’s houdt de spin overeind.
Over die Amerikaanse satellietfoto’s werd voor het eerst iets concreets gezegd in de brief die het kabinet vannacht naar de Kamer stuurde: Het OM heeft ze niet, en of het ooit mogelijk zal zijn dat het OM dit van de Amerikanen krijgt, is maar zeer de vraag! (PDF)
“Het is wenselijk dat het OM aanvullend materiaal verkrijgt vanuit de Verenigde Staten ten behoeve van het strafrechtelijke onderzoek. Dit neemt tijd in beslag, omdat het binnen de Amerikaanse wetgeving juridisch gecompliceerd is om inlichtingen over te dragen naar het strafrecht. Het OM heeft er alle vertrouwen in tijdig het relevante materiaal te verkrijgen.”
Er liggen, zei Westerbeke, nog twee opties op tafel. Een raket en een straaljager. Een raket is, zegt hij, het meest waarschijnlijk.
In de brief die vannacht van het kabinet kwam, wordt over het onderzoek van het OM iets anders gezegd:
“Het verdere onderzoek richt zich derhalve primair op de scenario’s een aanslag vanaf de grond dan wel een aanslag vanuit de lucht.”
Het kabinet refereert aan het interview in Der Spiegel, maar neemt de ‘waarschijnlijkheid van de raket niet over.’ Dat blijkt ook uit een ander, beetje krom en daarom ook niet erg duidelijk geformuleerd, fragment in dit antwoord:
“Zoals wij eerder in de stand van zakenbrief MH17 van 24 juli aan uw Kamer hebben gemeld, lijken de bewijzen zich op te stapelen dat het vliegtuig met een raket is neergehaald. Dat kunnen we nu niet met zekerheid zeggen, daarvoor moeten we de definitieve rapporten afwachten.”
‘Bewijzen’, dat is nogal een zwaar woord. En dat ze zich zouden opstapelen, dat maakt het nog indrukwekkender. Maar aan welke ‘bewijzen’ denkt de regering dan? Lijkt me een goede Kamervraag. Maar ik denk dat we het antwoord al kennen: eerst de onderzoeken afwachten.
Eerder sprak het OM na een persconferentie nog met meer zelfverzekerdheid over die raket. Is de focus van het OM aan het draaien van een raket naar een straaljager? Daar zullen ze in Kiev niet blij mee zijn.
Ik was ook benieuwd naar die vraag van Der Spiegel op de opmerking van Westerbeke dat een raket het ‘meest waarschijnlijk’ zou zijn. Die vraag zou simpelweg moeten luiden: Waarom? Maar die vraag kwam niet. Interessant is dat Westerbeke zei dat het OM Moskou verzocht heeft om de radardata waarop te zien zou zijn dat een Oekraïense straaljager vlucht MH17 benadert. Is het dan niet absurd, vraagt de interviewer van Der Spiegel, dat Oekraïne samen met het Nederlandse OM het onderzoek uitvoert? Westerbeke zegt dan: “Natuurlijk is dat een probleem. Maar we kunnen niet zonder hen.” Dat is volgens mij de crux. Het OM heeft een deal met Kiev. Wat die inhoudt, daarover zwijgt dit kabinet. Hoe moet zo ooit objectief de mogelijkheid onderzocht worden dat het een Oekraïense straaljager was? Hoe kan dit ooit een eerlijk onderzoek worden?
Het is mij tijdens het werken aan dit boek steeds meer gaan verbazen dat dit punt niet duidelijker op de agenda is komen te staan. Niet in de media, en eigenlijk ook niet in de politiek. Wat willen we nu eigenlijk? Willen we dat snel wordt geoordeeld dat de separatisten het hebben gedaan? Of willen we de waarheid? Met deze constructie is het onmogelijk om ooit tot een overtuigend rechtsproces te komen. Nou ja, snel gaat het sowieso niet worden, aldus Westerbeke. Voor 2016 zeker niet.
Nu zijn we dus in een moeras verzeild. Het OM blijft nog heel erg lang in stilte opereren. Af en toe zullen we kennelijk iets vernemen via een tussentijds interview, wat ik op zich al een merkwaardige constructie vind. De Onderzoeksraad komt volgend jaar met iets. Maar dat mag dus geen daderinformatie zijn. Het kabinet zal zich tot in de lengte der dagen verschuilen achter dit onderzoek. Mogelijk in de stille hoop dat het Oekraïense leger de rampplek zal heroveren. En dat er dan nog iets ligt.
De vraag is natuurlijk wat het parlement kan doen, behalve steeds weer vragen stellen die niet beantwoord worden, of met de bekende open deuren. Natuurlijk, dit parlement kan zo een dossier opbouwen, en ooit zal het vast wel tot een parlementaire enquête komen, als de politieke verhoudingen ernaar zijn.
Interessant vond ik het dat VVD Kamerlid Ingrid de Caluwé bij de laatste commissievergadering over MH17 opperde of het misschien geen idee was om de route langs de VN te volgen. Dat is ook wat Maleisië heeft voorgesteld. En Rusland. Althans iets in die richting. Blauwhelmen op de rampplek. Een VN onderzoekscommissie. Een speciale VN gezant. Misschien kan het onderzoek zo uit deze modderige sfeer van politieke deals getild worden. Misschien ook niet. Er zijn slechte ervaringen met de machteloosheid van de VN. Het kabinet heeft in elk geval laten weten niets te voelen voor de inzet van de VN, in het antwoord dat vannacht binnenkwam:
“Het Kabinet acht het niet opportuun om een discussie te entameren over een eventuele additionele VN-missie naar het rampgebied naast de reeds actieve OVSE-SMM. De kans dat hierover in de VN-Veiligheidsraad overeenstemming bereikt kan worden, is bovendien minimaal.”
Een inhoudsloos antwoord. En ik zou wel eens willen weten wie nu tegen de VN ter plaatse is. Toch niet de VS, mag ik hopen?
Geen enkele keer waarbij een burgervliegtuig met militaire middelen uit de lucht is geschoten, de laatste zestig jaar, is het tot een overtuigend rechtsproces gekomen. Dus de kans is sowieso zeer klein dat de waarheid ooit boven tafel komt.
De onderzoeksweg die nu is ingeslagen lijkt me een doodlopende. Er wordt alleen maar valse hoop mee gegeven aan de nabestaanden. Natuurlijk heeft de politiek niet de macht om dit onderzoek nog te stoppen. Maar de weg openen naar een derde, internationaal onderzoek, lijkt me nog de meest kansrijke optie. Nederland heeft altijd de mond vol van de VN, soms terecht, soms niet. Maar kunnen de koppen van de Nederlandse politiek nu eens dezelfde kant uit?
Interview met Joost Niemöller over ‘MH17 De Doofpotdeal’
In de media
- Recensie op Russia Insider (Engelstalig)
- Opiniestuk van Joost Niemöller in de Volkskrant ‘Onderzoek vliegtuigramp MH17: onderste steen komt niet boven’.
- Gesprek met Joost Niemöller over De Doofpotdeal in ‘Dit is de nacht’ op NPO Radio 1
- Interview met Joost Niemöller in ‘De Heer ontwaakt!’ op NPO Radio 2 over De Doofpotdeal
- Op NPO Radio 1 in ‘Mediaforum’ Ton Verlinden en Lucella Carasso over MH17 en De Doofpotdeal (vanaf 7 minuten en 20 seconden)
- Artikel in The Post Online van Chris Aalberts ‘Over MH17 zal nog lang gespeculeerd worden’
- Uitzending van PowNews over de MH17 ‘Onderzoek naar MH17 gaat nog jaren duren’
- Interview over De Doofpotdeal op ‘De dag die alles veranderde’
- Recensie over De Doofpotdeal op The Post Online
- Recensie over De Doofpotdeal op de Vrije Tribune
- Vertaling van mijn opiniestuk in de Volkskrant in het Engels door RT-commentator Pepe Escobar
- Commentaar in de Volkskrant ‘Scheuren in MH17’
- Recensie van De Doofpotdeal op What happened to flight MH17
- Interview met het Nederlands Dagblad ‘Kiev bepaalt conclusies ramp MH17’
- Interview met het Russische persbureau TASS
- Interview met de Russische krant Komsomolskaya Pravda (vertaald in het Nederlands)
- Aankondiging van mijn boek op het Russisch staatsjournaal
Hieronder de vertaling in het Engels van deze aankondiging.
- Commentaar Marianne Zwagerman op mijn boek en blog op NPO Radio 1 in ‘Mediaforum’ (vanaf minuut 13.00).
- Documentaire van Russia Today met hierin een uitgebreid interview met Joost Niemoller over de opzet van het Nederlandse onderzoek
- Interview in Metro ‘Over hoe het onderzoek tot niets leidt’
- Interview met Russische televisie, kanaal 24
- Documentaire met interview op REN TV (Russische kanaal 4)
- Korte documentaire met interview op Russisch Staattelevisie Kanaal 1
- Interview voor reportage in het Pools weekblad wSieci. Zie mijn artikel hierover van 25 maart 2015
Hieronder de oorspronkelijke weergave en daarna de vertaling in het Engels.
Black boxes very quickly taken and investigated by the independent experts in Great Britain. Wreck of the plane transported (to the country from which it took off for its last journey and later very precisely reconstructed by the experts. Autopsies conduced immediately after the victims were brought back to their country. To all mentioned above, we can add strong attitude of the Prime Minister and the attention which the authorities payed to the victims’ families. This is how the Netherlands examine the reasons of the MH17 tragedy. Comparing it to the investigation concerning Smolensk crash the differences are shocking.
Saturday morning, air-base in Gilze-Rijen, next to Breda. From the few days families of the victims of the MH17 crash come there to see, on their own eyes, what is left from the plane in which their loved ones died. Few private cars enter through the automatic gate, later the white bus and the coach with the Dutch government emblem. And later on, one more bus. Behind the window sad faces, including children’s faces, can be noticed. The journalist can’t enter the air-base with the families. – We promised them privacy during this very emotional moment. But if they would like to speak with you, we don’t mind – tells us Jeannette van der Kloet who takes care of the families on behalf of OVV – Dutch Safety Board, which conducts the investigation independent from the prosecutor’s office.
Few minutes later private car exits through the gate. It stops next to us. Young man is driving and on the backseat there’s a woman holding her face in her hands. She’s crying. – We didn’t even enter the hangar, the sister didn’t handle this. It’s too much, too much… – they don’t want to talk. They drive off. After some time, big group quits the air-base and goes to the nearest hotel. It’s where they were talking to the specialists who warned them that image of the wreck can be really drastic.
Group of about 30 people gets out of the bus. They are all of different age, nationality and race. One of the men is extremely moved and ask to pose questions to his wife who is emotionally stronger. – It was very dramatic, these feelings are still alive. I looked at this scrap and I had to tell myself out loud that this is the plane in which they all died. At first it was hard to imagine – tells us Silene Fredriksz-Hoogzand. In the plane there were her son Bryce (age 23) and her daughter-in-law Daisy Oehlers (21). – Her mother had died 2,5 month before and she couldn’t handle it. That’s why we were urging our son to take her on vacations – her voice drops. Silene’s curious why Polish journalists ask about the history of her loved ones. She heard about Smolensk crash. – I guess the politicians died there – she tells uncertainly. – You still don’t have neither the wreck nor the black boxes? Really? How’s that even possible? – she shakes head.
“Reading” from the wreck
On 17th July 2014 Malaysia Airlines boeing was on its way from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur when it was shot down above the Ukraine with 298 people on the board. All passengers died. 193 of them were Dutch. The bodies of the victims, as well as most of the wreck were brought to the Netherlands. Parts of the deformed sheet-metal and parts of destroyed plane are located in three hangars. However two of them are available. Sometimes it’s really hard to recognize what part of the plane is it. Stabilizer and the cover of the fuselage are the biggest parts which draw attention. It’s forbidden to touch anything. It’s allowed to walk only through the delineated footpaths. But the pictures can be taken. – The most important for the investigation are the parts of cockpit. These are not displayed on public, because the reconstruction of them already takes place – tells Sara Vernooij, press spokesman of the OVV. – Many families ask when we will begin the reconstruction of the whole plane. They want the investigation to be conducted more quickly, but they also appreciate what we do for them. For example the fact that they could see the wreck which is very meaningful to them – adds Jeannette van der Kloet.
– I was there twice. First time, let’s say: officially, with the people from the foundation, to check if it’s all settled before the families come. To make sure that they will have appropriate conditions to face this trauma. We organized everything together with the OVV, with the government’s help – tells us Piet Ploeg, the chairman of the foundation gathering victims’ families. In MH17 crash he lost his brother, sister-in-law and nephew. – On saturday I came here with my wife. It was very hard experience. In this plane our loved ones spent their last moments. You enter the hangar, look at the wreck and you become aware that the last thing they saw was this plane. I was deeply moved – tells Piet. We tell him how the Polish government allowed the Russians to treat the wreck of Tu-154M, how it was left outside for half of the year on the Smolensk airport and later covered by tarpaulin. How the wreck was washed before it was investigated. He can’t believe what he hears. For him these are the standards from another world.
Families, investigators and journalists emphasize that the wreck is a fundamental proof in the investigation. After the reconstruction, the wreck may explain what happened above the Ukrainian city of Torez. – Reconstruction of the wreck should give the answer to the most important question: if the plane was shot from the ground or from the air – tells us Joost Niemöller, independent investigative journalist who wrote a book about shooting of MH17. He writes very critically about the official investigation. The most popular version, confirmed by the Americans soon after the crash, is that the boeing was hit by the rocket from the BUK missile system placed on the territory occupied by the pro-Russian rebels. Joost adds that it is necessary to investigate other options: that BUK could belong to Ukrainian army or that boeing was shot down by the Ukrainian jet aircraft SU-25, which was seen around during that time. Or finally that there was bomb explosion on the board. The last three hypothesis are pushed forward by the Russian side – however the investigation doesn’t eliminate any. – I have a feeling that the best for everyone would be if it turned out that it was some drunk rebel who launched the rocket by mistake. Then the political aspect of the case could be rejected – adds Niemöller. “Political connections” between Russia and Netherlands could be a trading disaster for the Dutch who export to Russia big part of cultivated flowers and fruits.
Victims’ families, although trust the investigators and patiently wait for the final report, are aware that the truth can be politically uncomfortable. – I’m sure that Russia is responsible for this tragedy. Not “the rebels”, but Russia. Responsibility lays directly on Putin. Everyone knows it, but I’m not sure if the Netherlands will be brave enough to say it out loud. I’m worried that because of the political reasons, the truth will never come to light – tells us Silene Fredriksz-Hoogzand.
Last week RTL television informed, that one of the fragments, found on the crash site by the Dutch journalist suits to the bullet from the BUK launcher. International experts on forensic medicine and analysts from the British consulting defense group IHS Jane’s were supposed to add that explosives found on the bullet are the same used in the Russian production. That is indeed very important evidence in the investigation, however not conclusive one and the investigators will carry on their work.
On 17th July 2014 the most tragic catastrophe of the plane happened. It was result of shoot down happened. For the Dutch prosecutor’s office it’s the biggest criminal investigation in its history. Outline of examining this case is well-known for the Polish people. Dutch Safety Board (Onderzoeksraad Voor Veiligheid – OVV) is conducting proceedings which are supposed to prevent similar incidents in the future. This work can be compared to the Polish State Commission on Aircraft Accidents Investigation which was investigating Smolensk crash. OVV is looking for the causes of the crash, but it doesn’t point the responsible ones and doesn’t point the finger of accusation at anyone. It’s the task of the persecutor’s office which conducts the fundamental investigation – similar to the Polish Military Persecutor’s Office which examines the crash from 10th april 2010.
The work of the OVV is based on the 13th annex to the Chicago Convention which states that the country where the accident happened is responsible for conducting the investigation. It was the Ukraine which asked for the handover of the case and it was based on the bilateral treaty signed on 23rd July (available in the internet). The process is different from the one which happened five years ago in Smolensk. Then, the Polish Prime Minister didn’t event try to sign such treaty with Russia and didn’t try to handover the investigation to Polish institutions. He agreed that the Russian Commission (inglorious IAC – Interstate Aviation Committee) would be the institution examining the causes of the tragedy. Its rapport became main source of the information about the Tu-154M crash for the entire world. Donald Tusk also didn’t ask for international help. Unlike Ukraine which turned to International Civil Aviation Organization. Experts of ICAO appeared on the crash site just five days later (despite the military actions!).
In fact, by the OVV the international commission was created. Among experts examining MH17 case there are representatives from Malaysia, Ukraine, Russia, Great Britain, United States and Australia. On the 9th september the preliminary report was launched. It says that the plane was hit by burst of ‘high-energy objects’ from outside (pieces of the rocket that explode before reaching the object). There were no signs neither of the alarm nor of the concern in the pilot cabin. At the same time the defect of the plane as the cause of the crash was eliminated. The final report is to be launched at the end of this year.
From families’, authorities’ and citizens’ point of view more important is the investigation conducted by the persecutor’s office. It is very complicated operation and it can really be admired comparing it to the work of the Polish persecutors.
On 28th July the special team composed of over 100 experts (Joint Investigation Team) was formed. There are representatives of the countries where the victims came from (Netherlands, Australia, Malaysia, Great Britain, Belgium, Germany, Philippines, Canada, New Zealand, Indonesia and USA) as well as experts from the Ukraine, Europol and Interpol.
– The international cooperation is necessary in such big investigation, followed by the whole world. Such cases can’t be examine by one institution. It would be just weird – tells ‘wSieci’ dr Antoinette Collignon who is one of the six lawyers who represent the victims’ families. She’s an expert on the international law especially concerning accidents and personal injuries. She emphasizes that, although cooperation with Russia could be useful, it should be treated carefully. – We know that the Russians were trying to hinder the proceedings. The Prime Minister doesn’t trust them, so he limited help from the Russians maximally. It’s good. Here, on the West we examine all the circumstances and the Russians always have prepared conclusions which they try to promote. We are interested only in the truth – adds adv. Collignon.
It’s very obvious attitude for everyone who has basic knowledge about modern Russia. It’s a shame that a Polish government didn’t have the same five years ago.
Road to justice
200 of experts worked (and are still working, because there are still three people missing or unidentified) by the identification of the bodies. Experts are from seven countries, among them 120 from Netherlands. National Forensic Investigation Team (Landelijk Team Forensische Opsporing – LTFO) is composed of police experts, experts from the Ministry of Defense, forensic pathologists, dentists, geneticists and prosecutors. Together with identifications they do autopsies. In the military base in Hilversum they examine every part of the body that was found at the crash site.
– My nephew’s and sister’s-in-law funeral was in november. And also Alex’s (my brother) – symbolic one, because he’s not found until today. Some of my nephew’s bones were found after the incineration, so we had to organize another funeral ceremony. It shows the tragedy that we’re going through – tells us Piet Ploeg. The families know what they should be prepared for. But they don’t complain. On the opposite – they’re grateful for the authorities’ work.
On the Dutch police website we found information about the identification process. There are answers for over 50 detailed questions which might arise. We can read, for example, that the process is based on Interpol regulations and it’s the same as in the other countries. But from the painful experience of 10th april we know that the standards are not the same everywhere. After the Smolensk crash, there was no postmortem examinations of the bodies and the identifications process was conducted incorrectly. The perfunctory examinations were done very quickly, because there was a pressure to close the coffins as fast as possible. Forever. The whole process lasted only less than two weeks. Some families still aren’t sure who they really buried and where are their loved ones.
Fred Westerbeke, counterpart of the Polish Persecutor General, who supervises the MH17 investigation each time emphasizes that despite it’s the most difficult investigation the Dutch ever faced, he believes that it will end by creating the indictment. How about the troubles with different penal codes in countries of the victims, especially in Malaysia, where the perpetrators would be sentenced to death?
‘It won’t be any problem. Malaysia assured us that they won’t insist on using their regulations. Location of the court where we’ll be asking for justice will depend on few factors: who will be the accused ones, where they will be in the moment of pressing the charges, what extradition regulations could be used and how the cooperations with the other countries will work’ – told Westerbeke in public television NOS.
The advantages for choosing the Dutch could be: the number of the victims from Netherlands and experience of its judicature, especially International Criminal Court in Hague.
But road to justice is still long. As for now the investigators deal with collecting the evidences in extremely hard conditions and during hostile actions. According to Dutch media, Russian secret service is trying to break into Dutch police computer systems. So the police tries to protect everything and destroys telephones and computers used in Ukraine which could be infected.
The criminal procedure won’t end the legal fight for justice. Many lawsuits can be expected. As for now the Malaysia Airlines payed the families 5 000 dollars extra help. Additionally, they offered 50 000 dollars of compensation. But according to the Montreal Convention it should be about 180 000 dollars of compensation. Victims’ families have two years period to sue. Some of them already did it. Mother of the German passenger sued Ukraine for 800 000 dollars for no-closing the airspace. Eight families from Australia are going to sue Ukraine, Russia and Malaysia together. Dutch government can be worried as well. Few days before the crash one of its diplomats could be warned about the danger of civil flights above the Ukraine. Despite that, Ministry of Foreign Affairs didn’t alarmed the airlines. Mark Rutte’s cabinet explains that the airlines take responsibility for the safety on their routes.
The lawyers estimate that the amounts of compensation may event reach 10 millions dollars.
Each plane crash has broader range of effects then it may seem. On the MH17 board there were 298 people from ten countries. Each of the victims left loved ones. Suddenly, it turned out that there are thousands of people who need help. – We feel like it didn’t happen seven months ago, but yesterday. Every day we wake up thinking about this tragedy, about loosing our loved ones – tells Piet Ploeg. He emphasizes that foundation created by the victims’ families could count on authorities from the beginning. – We had four meetings in Nieuwegein village near Utrecht which gathered all the families. The king, queen, members of the government, investigators, and representatives of the other authorities participated in the two of them. For the few hours they were all there for us, we could talk to everyone together and in private – tells Piet. Even though that in Netherlands there are organizations which help the victims, it turned out that the foundation that he runs is necessary. This time it was decided that seize of the tragedy is so huge that it is necessary to create another organization which could help only this group.
– We receive also financial help. Our activity requires money, for example for running a website – tells Piet. The website which he tells about is really impressive. It contents every information. It also has special part dedicated to legal help and compensation process as well as big part about the psychological help. There are for example: advices how to treat children who lost their family in the plane crash or how to react if someone jokes about the catastrophe next to the victims’ families. On the website there is also special part for media. The families are informed that none of the journalist can force them to speak. However if they agree to talk with media, they should be aware of loosing anonymity. Hans de Borst, father of the 17-year old Elsemiek, told us about the other help methods (the interview published below). The government organization Slachtofferhulp which supports the families that went through the tragedy looked after Hans. De Borst showed us another website created by the government. Only the families have access to this one. After logging in it is possible to look through the photos of the victims’ stuff, such as suitcases, bags, clothes, documents, watches, telephones, cameras – which survived from the crash. If someone recognizes the object, then should mark it on the website and later on takes part in identification to see if it really belonged to someone from the family. Hans browse the website very often. He looks for the pink suitcase which his daughter took to Malaysia.
From the victims’ families we often hear that they are really grateful to the authorities how they treat them. Only once there was a bloomer. – The families were angry after the Minister of Foreign Affairs told in public that one of the victims was found with the oxygen mask on the face. For the families it meant that their loved ones could know that they will die in any moment. – It shouldn’t be like that, he couldn’t draw such conclusion – tells us Cyril Rosman, journalist from the local newspaper “De Persdienst”.
There is also group of the special policemen who take care only of the victims’ families, so-called: family detectives. – They are first information point for the relatives. After this minister statement they were the ones who sent to the families letter of apology in which they also ask the families not to misunderstand this statement – adds Rosman. Families are satisfied with this cooperation.
Money which the government ante to the foundation activity will also be spent on the commemoration of the victims. – For sure the monument for our loved ones will be founded. Maybe not in this year, very likely in the next one. There are few places where it could be built – tells Piet Ploeg. – I think about the Amsterdam Schiphol Airport, in front of the terminal from which they took off – points Hans de Borst, adding that it is the place where the Dutch people spontaneously gathered after MH17 crash. Piet adds that similar story happened in Hilversum, where the identifications are conducted. He also speaks about other places, such as Eindhoven airport (where the victims’ bodies were brought from Ukraine) or Hague – “peace city”, where is the Palace of Peace – headquarter of International Court of Justice.
– It can’t be the monument expressing anger or bitterness. It should remain of feelings such as peace or rest. We would like our grandchildren to visit it. And we’re absolutely sure that the monument will arise – summarizes Piet Ploeg who adds that what the families choose will be respected by the authorities.
Authorities behavior and sensitivity for the citizens will – these are the main differences that we notice comparing MH17 crash and Smolensk crash.
Be careful with Russia
For the Polish readers it might be surprising how patiently and carefully victims’ families wait for the results of two investigations. However, it’s worth mentioning that these are very consequent and arranged acts supervised by strong Prime Minister. After the crash Mark Rutte quite quickly became a leader, although at first his actions were not so effective. – In the first moments he didn’t do much. Minister of Foreign Affairs was more active – tells Joost Niemöller. He describes Prime Minister of Malaysia as a model. Despite the threat, he flew to Donetsk and demanded black boxes. ‘Who is a leader here? It was my plane, those are my black boxes. Who I am supposed to talk to?’ – asked Najib Tun Razak. Thanks to his actions the black boxes were taken from pro-Russian rebels. But later it was Mark Rutte who organized transport of the wreck and bodies to the country.
– Of course we can say that the investigation isn’t transparent, but most of the proceedings are exactly the same. This one is a little bit different, because it draws people’s attention. We don’t have enough knowledge, but there is nothing weird in it. These are Dutch proceedings – points Cyril Rosman. However there is something which Rosman calls “old boys network” – group of influential, linked people who hold important offices and they might be a problem for investigation’s transparency. President of the OVV, Tijbe Joustra held management positions in five ministries and he was a national coordinator responsible for fighting terrorism. His name had been among possible candidates for ministry of justice after the previous one resigned two weeks ago. If it turned out that one of the “old boys” didn’t fulfill the procedure, “the investigation might not reveal it”. Many of our interlocutors emphasize that it is not good for the OVV that the Russians take part in the examinations. In the Netherlands they don’t trust Putin. No one is impressed by the Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov’s television rants about the lack of transparency in the investigation. – Especially after the plane crush people share this opinion, not exactly fair, that Russia is a communist country where everyone obeys Putin’s orders – tells Joost Niemöller and reminds us about the event which confirms that Russia worked hard for such opinion. On the 21st July, four days after the tragedy, on the press conference, the Russians showed pictures of the Ukrainian BUK launcher near the front line. But the pictures were showed in the way in which Russians already tried to sneak version comfortable for them. Big screen, big room, two generals and journalist gathered 50 m in front of it. – From the one side it’s not the most important evidence, but all possibilities should be examined – adds the journalist. Ukrainian participation in the prosecutor’s investigation is equally problematic, because this country should, at the same time, be treated as a suspect – points Cyril Rosman, emphasizing that he has no sympathy for Russia, he just wants objectivity in explaining the causes.
– Few weeks ago I was in Abu Dhabi where I participated in the biggest military Expo in the world. Also Russian security and defense companies were there. They were presenting the models and the folders about the missile system BUK. It was strange feeling – the Russians were advertising the weapons which shot down airplane with our citizens on the board. I asked our minister of defense Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert how did she feel about it. She answered that these companies are usually displayed on such events and all she can do is walk around companies from Ulyanovsk.
– It also shows that shooting down this plane is dramatic experience which we will remember forever, even though for the world it was only an incident. I’m worried that our government is aware of that and although will do everything to discover the truth it might be too weak to defeat interests of the world powers – adds the journalist from ‘De Persdienst’. He also sees the analogy to the Smolensk crash. Smolensk was the subject which passed by the Dutch media very quickly.
– I think that your investigation is even more complicated than ours. I could believe that MH17 crash was an accident. But the truth about Smolensk might never come to light because of the ‘great politics’ – tells Cyril. Joost Niemöller is very surprised that the coffins weren’t opened in Poland and postmortem examinations weren’t conducted. – It looks like a deal between the Polish and the Russians. We won’t say anything about you and you won’t say anything about us. There are subject which we won’t mention neither together nor separately – he wonders.
Not to miss anything
Niemöller emphasizes how important were the autopsies: – First they did autopsies of the pilots, already a week after the bodies had been brought back to the Netherlands. From this activities more could be known then from the black boxes, because the catastrophe was sudden and didn’t left any signals on the recorders. The victims’ bodies will give more information than the witnesses who, even if saw anything, could be in trauma and could not remember everything correctly.
Adv. Collignon adds that autopsies had very personal aspect for the families. – All bodies had gone through the examinations, even the smallest elements. Basing on this, the identifications were done. This was very important for the families, because not all of them received bodies in one piece. Imagine, that there were families who buried only the feet of their loved one. For them every, even the smallest part of the body is extremely important. Evidences about everyone knows are not the only ones that the investigators have. Persecutor Westerbake emphasizes: – We have many analysis, relations from the witnesses, juridical-medical reports and pictures, also from the radars and satellites.
Especially images from the satellites could be meaningful in this case, like in Smolensk crash. – Only two countries know what really happened there. These are Russia and United States – thinks Joost Niemöller and shares his knowledge with us: – Whether USA gave Netherlands satellite photos, our government won’t tell us. From my source I know that the Americans showed something, but the photos were not good enough to admit or deny anything. For the Dutch it will be better to keep this in secret.
Having satellite photos from 10th april 2010 is also a secret in Poland. Till today we don’t have answers to the question when exactly were taken photos by DigitalGlobe company and what minister Jacek Cichocki, who they were given to, did with them.
There are not many similarities between Dutch and Polish investigations. In the clue point all we can see are huge differences. Despite the most important: reconstruction of the wreck or postmortem examinations – it is worth mentioning the black boxes. Those from MH17 flight were immediately, after taken from the pro-Russian rebels, sent to London for the analysis. The recorders from Tu-154M are still in Russian safe in Moscow.
The bloggers have great role in explaining the circumstances of the crash of the Malaysian plane. One of the most important is British website Bellingcat.com. Its creators working together with the people from the whole world are the ones who discovered the information about transporting missile system BUK to the place where the rocket was launched from. They also found the photos, verified them and put on the Google maps. In this way they recreated the road taken by this machine. From the investigative journalists we found out that Dutch prosecutors didn’t treat the bloggers as the maniacs. They were treated as the volunteers whose work can really be used in the investigation. The persecutors contacted them and the evidences collected by the bloggers are now very important material in the investigation. In the opposition, it is worth to remind how differently, even with resentment, Polish investigators treat professors who do scientific research about the circumstances of the Tu-154M catastrophe.
And one more element about the Dutch investigation, which at first might seem not important. On the police website there is special branch for the people who want to pass materials which might be helpful in the investigation. Everyone can upload photos or movies up to 100 MB which will be verified by the specialists. Police already thanks everyone who would like to help.
Poland and Netherlands. Two countries. Two investigations. Two worlds. Almost two civilizations. The way in which MH17 crash is explained is an indictment for the Polish authorities and persecutors. Our ‘elites’ can not even explain themselves using helplessness. Because is not about the possibilities but about the standards and willingness to obey them. The Netherlands is not a world power. It just uses the international law regulations. The same ones that Polish government can’t use. It uses their internal regulations, unlike our persecutor’s office, which didn’t do postmortem examinations despite having such possibility and obligation. The Netherlands knows what the allies and international organizations are for. Polish authorities hid from them. And above all, the Dutch treated their dead citizens with proper respect. And it wasn’t about dead president, ministries, army generals, presidents of institutions or other VIPs. The Dutch trust their government and appreciate the way it explains this national tragedy. And they don’t understand at all that in Poland it might be in opposite way.
Elsemiek was everything to me
Hans de Borst guested us in his home in Monster next to Hague. He lives alone in a little house. On the walls he has many pictures of his daughter, her drawings – even from the early childhood. To Malaysia, 17-years old Elsemiek was going with her mum, stepfather and stepbrother.
In the letter you wrote three days after the crash there was a sentence: “I hope that you’re proud of shooting down her young life and future. And tomorrow morning you’d be able to look at yourself in the mirror”. You directed these words to Putin, leader of the separatists and representatives of the Ukrainian government. You look for the guilty ones among them?
They are the sides directly engaged in the conflict which led to shooting down MH17. I don’t trust Putin at all, that’s why I directed these words mainly to him. He’s a dictator in his country and many times before lied to the public which could be burden to him. For example after sinking down nuclear-powered cruise missile Kursk. Till today he didn’t tell the truth about that rescue. I think that people in Poland understand this even more.
So how do you look at the cooperation with Russia, which has its representative in the OVV, in explaining the causes of the crash.
Every help is valuable, but I think Russians shouldn’t be in this board if the investigation is going to be objective. The same about the Ukrainians. Their conflict with the Russians can influence badly this investigation. If someone was directly engaged in this crash for sure will impede this examination. It’s worth mentioning what the Russian journalists are doing. Basing on what is told in Moscow, they already drew their own conclusion. For them the most important is that the Russia is not guilty. It’s total propaganda.
What impression made on you the wreck of the airplane?
It was very weird feeling. I saw parts of the shelfs on which the bags are put. Like someone would say to me: hey, your daughter sat here. Looking at those scraps it’s hard not to think about it. I bore in my mind that this huge machine didn’t have any chances without this rocket. Aluminum couldn’t survive the explosion.
Were you sure that you want to see this wreck with your own eyes?
Yes. I want to see everything which connects with this crash. I just didn’t want to see my daughter’s body. I prefer to remember her like on the photos. But I wanted to see the wreck, to make sure that everything is examined, that the investigation is conducted. Moreover, the visitation in the hangar was really well-prepared. The authorities really took care of the families.
Do you think that reconstruction of the wreck is important?
Everything what is important for the investigation should be done. Everything. Despite it won’t bring Elsemiek home, I hope it would help to explain the causes of her death. Every circumstances are considered: shooting down by BUK missile system but also shooting down by the different rocket. None of the hypothesis is eliminated.
After the catastrophe you had to learn how to live once again. Who helped you?
Above all I was in need of talking to people, friends and family. I also used psychotherapist help. I meet him every two weeks. These meetings are the most important to me.
How looks your everyday life?
Everyday I have to wake up and live in loneliness. I suppose I didn’t go mad, but sometimes I feel like I’d have amputated arm or some other important part of the body. Elsemiek was everything to me. She was 17 and her head was full of ideas. She just was shoot down from the sky, with no reason. Sometimes I wonder if I shouldn’t have been in this plane too. Look, there’s another spring, sun is shining. But for me there won’t be any more shiny days.
Who supports you now?
I have my 81-years old mother living not so far away. She was very moved by this tragedy. In may my father had died. He was 86, it was predictable. But two months after her granddaughter died. It was too much. It was something unpredictable, something you cannot deal with. And we have to. I’m also in touch with Elsemiek’s friends. I was in her school few times recently and I talked with them, they’re preparing to the exams. She should be there too.
You don’t run away from people, just the opposite. Do they give you strength?
My new life is composed of little things, talks, meetings – sometimes unexpected. BBC journalist asked me for an interview. When I said that it would be possible after my comeback from Newcastle, he was surprised: “Newcastle? You should meet Barry Sweeney.” He contacted us. Barry is a father of a boy who was huge fan of FC Newcastle and also died in MH17. We went to see the game together. In 17th minute on the stadium there was huge applause – to commemorate fan. It’s the same on each game. I felt this bravo was also for me. I was moved.
Please, tell us more about Elsemiek.
She was quiet girl, but with a sense of humor. She was a good student. She wanted to study architecture. She had many friends, but she wasn’t the type of girl who goes to the clubs very often. She preferred to meet friends at home. She liked to go to the movies, but she didn’t have any strange ideas. I still think of her as a child, but recently, when she turned out 17, she started becoming a woman. Suddenly everything ended… She trained jogging in the athlete club, she often went to the gym and danced. At home she played piano and recorded herself playing on her mobile phone. I have so many of such records: her face and beautiful music. We had our favorite track – theme song from “Amelia” movie. I played it on her funeral. It was very moving – as well for me as the other people.
Did you have any plans together?
After her comeback from Malaysia we were about to go camping to France or Spain, just two of us. We wanted sun and beach, because usually we went skiing together to Austria. We were there also during our last Christmas in 2013. It was great time. When I was there after the accident, on one of the slopes, I put on the bench the table with information how my daughter died and writing: “Elsemiek, I love you to the moon and back. XXX Dad XXX”. Someone asked me if I was allowed to do so. I didn’t ask anyone. I just did this, like a little monument for my daughter.
Did you receive any help from the government?
Governmental organization Slachtofferhulp supporting the families who went through tragic events, took care of us immediately. Woman from this institution visited us few times, we talked a lot, I know that I can contact them for any help – financial (which is not necessary) as well as psychological. In november we had commemoration day organized by the government in Amsterdam. It was beautiful celebration. We read names of all victims, the ceremony was very sentiment. I’m very thankful to the Prime Minister for that. There is also foundation which takes care of us. The government supports it. And this is not everything.
Are you satisfied by the course of the investigation?
Actually, I could be disappointed that we know very little, but from the other side, I look at the investigation and I see that the government tries to do everything very meticulously. They brought back the bodies despite the danger of warfare. They brought back most of the wreck. I do understand that it was impossible to bring back whole wreck. I don’t complain. I really don’t want anybody to die while explaining the causes of my daughter’s death. What’s more they identified most of the victims. They identified my daughter after three weeks. I also see that cooperation with Malaysia, Australia and Great Britain (where the black boxes are examined) is really good, as well as cooperation with the American boeing experts. I don’t have any objections, the experts should be able to work.
How do you assess Dutch Prime Minister attitude?
When we had met after the crash I had had a feeling that I saw really scared man who talked a lot but didn’t know what to do. Later, we met two months after and it looked differently. I could directly say that he’s doing good job. He struggles to invite for the investigation everyone who could help. He managed to bring back the bodies from the danger zone and because of that gave the investigators the evidences. My feelings toward Mr Rutte are very positive. Some of them think that he should ask Putin for help, but with him nothing is obvious. That is why the Prime Minister decided to conduct international investigation.
Did you think about commemorating the victims? For example building the monument.
Yes, the foundation gathering the victims’ families already talked about it with the government.
Where such monument could be situated?
I think about Amsterdam Schiphol Airport, in front of the terminal from which they took off. It is the place where people gathered after the MH17 crush happened. The Dutch chose this place themselves, so maybe they will should be respected?
Thank you for the conversation.
The authors: Marek Pyza and Marcin Wiklo
Translation: Magdalena Czarnecka
- Interview met Joost Niemöller voor het Russische persbureau Tass over het ‘bewijs’ van het OM Prosecutors’ probe into MH-17 disaster not trustworthy — Dutch journalist – (4 April 2015)
- Naar aanleiding van hier bovenstaand interview verscheen op de Amerikaanse site Veterans Today dit commentaar
- En op deze Vietnamese website verscheen een Vietnamese vertaling van het interview voor TASS
- Op 5 april 2015 zond de Russische staatstelevisie op kanaal 1 onderstaande documentaire uit over het onderzoek door het Openbaar Ministerie in Nederland, met daarin mijn commentaar