A summary of content of MH17 documents made public in August 2016

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Dutch media RTL Nieuws, Volkskrant and NOS requested the Dutch government to make public MH17 documents. The request was done using the Freedom of Information Act (Wet Openbaarheid Bestuur WOB).  The request was done in October 2o14 and after many delays documents were finally handed over to the Dutch media by Ministry of Justice at Friday August 29 2016.

Six and a half hours before the deadline would have been expired.

At September 2 the Dutch State published the documents here. The motivation of the Ministry of Justice to not publish documents can be read in this letter.

A complete summary of the process required to obtain the documents can be read in this reconstruction.

Documents were initialy made public in February 2015. However the documents were heavily censored. A Dutch judge at Hune 3, 2016 ordered Ministry of Justice to reconsider the censoring.

So they did. A part of the documents released at August 29 2016 hardly had any censoring left. These are documents  written by organizations involved in the crisis, for example ministries and  the National Coordinator for Counterterrorism and Security.

However,  reports on meetings of the Special Ministerial were not released at August 29. The Dutch media will continue the court case against the Ministry of Justice to force the release of these documents as well. Nltimes reports about the reason for not disclosing the minutes of meeting:

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.

What is inside the documents?

This is a summary of the information provided in today’s articles by RTL Nieuws, Volkskrant and NOS. I will not go into details.

  • At August 4 2014, over two weeks after the shotdown, it was still unclear by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and National Coordinator for Counterterrorism and Security what to do with the aircraft wreckage. The questions asked by members of these organisations are:
    What to do with wreckage, who will recover, where to bring wreckage to, when to recover.
  • At September 8 2014, it was known Dutch Safety Board and Dutch prosecutor were interested in specific parts of the aircraft. (RTL). At November 11 2014 finally the recovery of wreckage started.
  • In documentation dated October 21 2014 is stated that Dutch Defense will report soon that there are no or negligible risks for working on the crash site. However 6 days later Dick Schoof,  National Coordinator for Counterterrorism and Security, writes to families of victims  “the safetysituation at the crash site has not improved enough to restart the recovery operation”.The difference is explained in the scope of the Defense investigation. The report was about an assessment if the recovery team could work safely on the crashsite. Judged was if there was no toxic in the ground. The Defense report did not assess the risk of actions of war.I have always had doubts about the true reason why the recovery process was so slow. This is a post describing the situation at the crash site in the months after July 17.
  • The Dutch government was afraid for Dutch public being  unrest about the lack of acting by the Dutch government
  • “a balance needs to be found between care for the next of kin and international political situation” (RTL)
  • Dutch government assumed from the beginning that Russian separatists were behind the downing of the plane.
  • Malaysia was initially not part of the Joint Investigation Team. The reason was the difference in justice system. Malaysia still has death penalty. See the slide here.
  • Senior Dutch officials stated “Prosecution in the Netherlands is desirable.”
  • The Netherlands is at risk of becoming a pawn in the propaganda war”
  • Separatists had an anti-Dutch attitude (Volkskrant)
  • Kiev did not keep its promises about a ceasefire around the crashsite


Overview of Dutch media reports on released documents

Dutch media reports about the released MH17 documents are listed below:

MH17-stukken openbaar onder druk rechter (RTL)

Reconstructie MH17: ‘We hebben gedaan wat we konden’ (RTL)

Ministeries vreesden na MH17-ramp voor maatschappelijke onrust (NOS)

MH17-documenten openbaar: stemming onder rebellen was anti-Nederlands (Volkskrant)

Overheid legde schuld neerstorten MH17 direct bij separatisten (nu.nl)

‘Nederlandse journalist? Dan doden we je’ (Volkskrant)

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5 Comments on A summary of content of MH17 documents made public in August 2016

  1. Who was this journalist exactly is this is story known? And I tried to find anything end of July 2014 on https://rsf.org/en/news/summary-attacks-media but no show there.

    Would it be Demjin Doroschenko perhaps :-)? And if it was a non-Russian speaking how would we know what exactly was said, by which authority, with what kind of weight?

    This seems quite important as it’s the only reason given here for the “anti-Dutch” climate. Of course another reason could have been, as the Volkskrant reports, about the Dutch intelligence officer now embedded with the Ukrainian army to coordinate the coming “anti-terrorist” operation (recapture of ground) with the Dutch reparation mission…

    All the above would imply the Dutch had put all their eggs straight away in the basket of Kiev and prioritized conquest of the crash site by military force (under control of partner Kiev) before doing anything else.

    Which ends up having been pure politics then, counter-productive and perhaps also disrespectful for the actual dead people, their families and their belongings. The Dutch have been “political correct” perhaps in their own eyes but quickly siding with the ones planning to attack the crash site seems as a grave mistake. And indeed it might have put Dutch researchers and journalists at risk, needlessly!

    No wonder there’s so much silence after how things panned out. The waiting is for the right questions being asked now!

  2. De Volkskrant wrote absolute nonsense.The ICCb simply quoted an Australian journalist. There is no further evidence of any specially anti-Dutch climate in these documents.
    “Dutch government assumed from the beginning that Russian separatists were behind the downing of the plane.” Again, nonsense. The real quote is: “De afgelopen dagen hebben de opstandelingen herhaaldelijk Oekraiense vliegtuigen neergehaald. Het is daarom niet uitgesloten dat het vliegtuig is neergeschoten.”
    (Past few days, the rebels shot down repeatedly Ukrainian aircraft. It is therefore possible that the aircraft was shot down.)
    Neither RTL, nor NOS, or De Volkskrant mentioned the non-cooperative behavior of the Ukrainian side. For example:”Afspraken met Kiev houden geen stand” (agreements with Kiev are not kept.)
    There is a lot more in these documents, but these media wasted the opportunity and a lot of time and money from the Ministry of Justice.

    • @Rob: interesting comment. Can you help me with the document numbers/PDF where I can find this Afspraken met Kiev houden geen stand” (agreements with Kiev are not kept.)”
      Let me know other interesting stuff. Will try to find to read all the docs myself time permitting.

      • @rob: found the part about Kiev not keeping its promises. Added it to the blog.

      • Zaaknummer_Deel_2, Situatieschets 29 juli. If you know what your looking for it, won’t take you a lot of time. I believe the “Situatieschets en duiding” parts are the most interesting.
        4 aug 2014 Russia hands over information from air-control Rostov.
        What I miss in these documents is any reference to the pro-Kiev militia. They were a serious risk, because they were at most, only partially under control by Kiev.

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