Remarkable statement by Dutch Minister van der Steur on no requirement for radar images

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In a parliamentary debate at February 4, 2016  in Dutch parliament Dutch minister van der Steur (VVD) of Security and Justice told the Dutch Parliament the Prosecutor does not need raw radar recordings.

Already at that time it was totally not logical  there was no need for raw radar recordings of primary radar.  This type of radar might be capable to detect a missile.

However in May 2017 Dutch prosecutor announced it did a legal request for assistence to Russia to hand over raw radar recordings.

It seems somehow Dutch government wanted to delay the request for radar data or somehow did want want to put too much pressure on Russia to hand over radar recordings.

This is a transscript of the February 4, 2016 debate. The text was told by van der Steur.

Vervolgens een opmerking over de wijze waarop het Openbaar Ministerie mij informeert. Het Openbaar Ministerie stuurt mij met enige regelmaat ambtsberichten over de voortgang van het strafrechtelijk onderzoek. Dat is gebruikelijk in de relatie tussen de minister van Veiligheid en Justitie en het Openbaar Ministerie. Het onderwerp van de radargegevens is ook met enige regelmaat aan de orde geweest in de gesprekken die ik met het Openbaar Ministerie heb. Telkens heeft het Openbaar Ministerie mij bevestigd dat er geen behoefte bestaat aan meer of andere gegevens en dat men voldoende gegevens heeft voor het strafrechtelijk onderzoek. Die gegevens heeft het OM onder andere via de MIVD gekregen.

Summary: The Dutch Public Prosectution Service (OM) sends me frequently reports about the progress of the criminal investigation. The topic of radar recordings has been discussed frequently. Each time the Prosecution Service told me there is no need for more or other data and that there is sufficient information for the criminal investigation.

The transscript of the debate can be read here.

Mind at that time Russian Federation just handed over a video recording of what the Russian air traffic controller saw at his screen. This does not show a missile as the information what is shown on the screen is filtered. This type of radar data cannot be used for criminal investigation.

At September 26 2016 Fred Westerbeke, the prosecutor in charge, repeated at the JIT pressconference the statement that radar recordings were not needed.

Westerbeke: “De discussie over de radarbeelden kan wat ons betreft worden afgesloten. We willen vandaag benadrukken dat het materiaal waarover wij beschikken ruim voldoende is om conclusies te kunnen trekken in het strafrechtelijk onderzoek.

The discussion about the radar images can be closed in our respects. We want to emphasize today that the material we have available is sufficient to draw conclusions in criminal investigation.

See his statement here on video (at 14 min 55 sec ):


Inspired by the comment by Slozhny I did a bit more thinking. There are a couple of reasons why the minister and prosecutor said what they have  said:

  1. Ignorance. The Dutch prosecution service was convinced Russia and Ukraine did not have primary radar. There was no need to request radar data as they would never get it if requested. However it is strange the minister did not say that primary radar could help the investigation if it was available
  2. New insights. The investigation team initially believed the evidence presented by SBU was sufficient. Later the team found out these are not complete and radar recordings should be needed to pinpoint the exact location of the launch.
  3. Pure bluff. The statement could be to show that the investigation team has enough other evidence to impress Russia. This was also exactly  said by the minister.
  4. Political. There is some sort of wish to have this investigation stalled.

Ignorance seems very unlikely. Many people are working in the investigation team. They must have know Russia had indeed radar data while they said it was deleted. I can even remember a statement by OM on this.

NRC reported this in July 2016

“The Dutch Public Prosecution Service again asked (Russia) for radar recordings. According the investigation team possibly there is more information than Russia so far handed over, something Russia so far denied. ”

New insights: seems unlikely. It is extreme obvious that all effort should be done to have radar recordings avaiable. Any lawyer and judge will ask questions about why these images are missing. DSB did a lot of effort to get those recordings. It is very unlikely investigation team after about 24 months decided radar images can be usefull. In July 2016 investigation team made efforts to obtain radar recordings from Russia.

Bluff is not likely as well. This because OM later sent out two legal requests for assistence to Russia.

So what remains is a political motivation to stall the investigation. 

Pieter Omtzigt asks during the Februay 4, 2016 debate about the way of communication between OM and the Minister. According the minster there is no written statement by OM that there is no need for additional radar data.

Van der Steur states he does not require written statements. For him there is no difference between being told or having a written statement (ambtsbericht).

As there is no written statement about the fact it was not needed to have radar data, my guess it was a political motivation for the minister.

However at the ezine published in May 2017 the Dutch Prosecution Service states they have send an additional request for radar data.

The OM sent a supplementary request for legal assistance to the Russian Federation with a more specified request to submit the radar data in a format that does allow comparison. In addition, the OM hired external expertise for the analysis of the radar data.

Furthermore, the OM reminded the Russian Federation of remarks that had already been made on behalf of the Ministry of Defence during a press conference on 21 July 2014 and which refer to the presence of a second radar station that had covered the airspace at the crucial moment. This concerns a radar station in Buturinskaya. In a supplementary request for legal assistance, the OM explicitly requested the radar data of this radar station as well. Until today, the OM has not received any response to this request.

The first request by the OM to the Russian Federation for primary radar data regarding the area Donetsk/Luhansk for the period from 14 July up to and including 18 July 2014 dates from 15 October 2014.

Timeline of the radar data requests

Now lets have a look at the timeline of radar recordings.

  1. September 9 2014. Dutch Safety Board preliminary report mention Russia handed over a video recording at the glass of one of the Russian radar antenna’s.
  2. October 15 2014. Dutch prosecutor requests Russia for all available radar data.
  3. October 13, 2015: DSB publishes final report. Reports Russia did not archive raw radar recordings
  4. January 12, 2016. 18 families ask PM Rutte about radar recordings.
  5. January 21, 2016. Dutch minister writes OM does not need radar recordings. (source). The Dutch government will assist in collecting evidence if OM request the government.

    Het OM heeft mij laten weten dat het OM op dit moment over voldoende informatie beschikt en dat nu geen behoefte bestaat aan het doen van verzoeken voor aanvullende informatie op het gebied van radar- en satellietgegevens.

  6. February 2016: according van der Steur Dutch prosecutor does not need primary radar recordings
  7. March 2016: Dutch government did not discuss deleting of radar data by russia at ICAO.
  8. July 2016: a delegation of OM went to Russia to discuss radar recordings. (Telegraaf)
  9. July 2016: NRC reports that OM believes Russia does have radar data

    Het OM heeft ook nog eens gevraagd naar radarbeelden rond de crash. Volgens het onderzoeksteam is er mogelijk méér informatie dan Rusland heeft gegeven – iets wat Moskou tot nu toe heeft ontkend.

  10. September 2016: Russia shows radar recordings of primary radar  at press conference
  11. October 2016: Dutch prosecutor recieves the radar recordings made by Ust-Donetsk antenna.
  12. January 27, 2017. Telegraaf reports radar images are in unknown format.
  13. February 16 2017: Dutch prosecutor announces a new ‘legal request ‘will be send to Russia. There is no talk about a request for the data of the other radar antenna. The request seems to be focussed on Russia helping with understanding the data.
    Update: at August 24 2017 Dutch prosecutor makes public in the week of August 21 Dutch prosecutor received additional information from Russia. This is radar data in ASTERIX format as well as manuals.
  14. Unknown date 2017 . The OM sent a supplementary request for legal assistance to the Russian Federation with a more specified request to submit the radar data of the Ust-Donetsk antenna in a format that does allow comparison.
  15. Unknown date 2017 . Probably March  2017 Dutch prosecutor requests Russia to hand over raw data of the  Buturinskaya radar antenna.
  16. May 15 2o17. Dutch prosecutor makes public that it send an additional  legal request for legal assistance.The OM explicitly requested the radar data of this radar station in Buturinskaya as well. Until today, the OM has not received any response to this request.
  17. May 15 , 2017: OM states that radar could not have detected missile because as a lighthouse it was facing the other direction.
  18. August 2017: in a letter to Dutch parliament, Minister Blok states Russia did not yet respond to a legal request for help submitted to Russia in March 2017. Likely this was a request to hand over data of Buturinskaya radar antenna.
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1 Comment on Remarkable statement by Dutch Minister van der Steur on no requirement for radar images

  1. By February 2016 Russia stated it had not saved raw PSR data, and Ukraine stated it had never had those at all (while data from the mobile radar were likely found and handed over to the JIT by that time). In any case it was beyond belief to expect Russia to submit raw data which include real marks from a missile. And it was unreasonable for the Prosecution Service to state they could not manage to send it for trial without new radar recordings. Perhaps, the wording “geen behoefte bestaat aan” could be more accurate though. New raw data could be somewhat helpful yet, while not necessary.

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