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.
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)by