Malaysia joined the Joint Investigation Team 3,5 months after JIT started. That is remarkable as MH17 was a plane operated by a Malaysian airline and 43 citizen of Malaysia were onboard.
At August 7 2014 a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) was formed to start a criminal investigation into the downing of MH17. States initially participating in the JIT were the Netherlands, Ukraine, Australia and Belgium.
Malaysia became a formal member at November 28, 2014. Malaysia attended for the first time an Eurojust meeting at December 4, 2014. This was the 3rd Eurojust Coordination Meeting on the criminal investigation process.
Russia foreign minister Lavrov stated in a BBC interview that it was very strange Malaysia joined so late. And agreed, that raises questions. I have asked myself many times why Malaysia was not member right from the begining. The spokesman of JIT could not tell me the reason.
Recently a lot more information became available.
There are three reason for the late join.
- the fact Malaysia still has death penalty. This issue was confirmed in documents released by Dutch government after a Freedom of Information Act request.
- Distrust of Ukraine towards Malaysia
- Incomprehension by Ukraine
In a very interesting reconstruction by Dutch newspaper Volkskrant published at September 28 2016 we get some insight into the reason for the late joining.
Ukraine did not trust Malaysia as the Asian country is seen by Kiev as an ally of Russia. Malaysia signed an agreement with the separatists to obtain the black boxes of MH17. I wrote a blog post about this here. The deal with the separatists made Kiev very angry.
Malaysia also did not directly put the blame on Russia as Ukraine did. It kept a neutral role and does so currently.
Malaysia had issues with Ukraine as well. There was incomprehension for the 43 Malaysian people who died on board the aircraft.
Dutch prosecutor Westerbeke did its best during the Eurojust meeting at December 4 2014 to bring Ukraine and Malaysia closer together. He suggested to provide Malaysia gradually more access to the JIT documents. Malaysia was given a role in the forensic research while Kiev did other research. In this way, both countries could operate in JIT without getting in each other’s way. Kiev agreed to this.by