Dutch government in letter addressed to parliament about state liability mentions no legal steps against states

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At March 9, 2018 Dutch government made public a letter  addressed to the parliament. The letter is about state liability on MH17. In a September 2016 plenary debate the at that time Minister for Foreign Affairs Bert Koenders promised to send a letter to the parliament explaining options for legal steps against one or more states involved in MH17 (Russian Federation and Ukraine).

Minister Koenders made clear he wanted to send the letter before the end of 2017. In the end the letter was sent at March 9 2o18.

The letter discusses what state liability is. It is basically an explanation of legal options. The last sentence of the letter reads:

Over een keuze om al dan niet gebruik te maken van de optie van aansprakelijkstelling van een of meer staten zal ik Uw kamer informeren.

Translated: the minster will inform the Parliament if the Dutch government will make use of the option to hold one or more state liable.

The content of the letter is not a surprise. Earlier PM Mark Rutte mentioned that the Dutch government will not decide on legal steps against states before the Joint Investigation Team has finished the criminal investigation into the downing of MH17. As the JIT agreement has again been extended, now ending January 2019, I do not expect any statement about legal steps against states in 2018.

It is remarkable the letter was not sent much earlier to the Parliament as all the information in the letter does not have any sign of recent developments.

My prediction is that Dutch state will never take steps against Russia or Ukriane. Steps against Russia could lead to sanctions by President Putin on gas supplies to the Netherlands. Steps against Ukraine will result in Ukraine not cooperating anymore in the investigation and also for geopolitical reason steps are not likely.

Marieke de Hoon , who  holds expertise in international criminal law, public international law, and human rights and teaches both international law and the International Law Clinic at the VU University in Amsterdam, made a couple of Tweets about the letter. Click on the Tweet below to see all the Tweets part of the thread.


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