Black boxes were very quickly recovered and analyzed by the independent experts in Great Britain. Wreckage of the plane was transported back to the country from which it took off for its last journey. All the pieces were painstakingly and carefully reconstructed by the experts. Autopsies were conduced immediately after the victims were brought back to their country. All the actions were conducted under Prime Minister's emphatic approach and the victims' families were given undivided attention and care by the authorities every step of the way. This is how the Netherlands explain the MH17's tragedy.
Compared to the Smolensk crash the differences are startling.
It is Saturday morning at the Air-Base in Gilze-Rijen, near Breda. This is where the families of the victims of the MH17 crash have been coming for the past few days to see the remnants of the plane in which their loved ones died. Few private cars enter through the automatic gate, later followed by a white coach and the mini bus with the Dutch government insignia. A little later one more coach arrived. One could notice grief-stricken faces behind the windows, both adult and those of children. Unlike the victims' families, the journalists are not allowed to enter the Air-Base. - We promised them privacy during this overwhelming moment, because this is how it should be perceived. However, if they would like to speak with you, then we don't mind – we are told by Jeannette van der Kloet who looks after the families on behalf of OVV. Jeannette explains that OVV is The Dutch Safety Board, which conducts the investigation into the crash independently of the prosecutor's office.
Few minutes later a private car exits through the gate. It stops next to us. A young man is sitting behind the wheel and the back seat is occupied by a woman holding her face in her hands. She is crying. - We didn't even enter the hangar, my sister couldn't handle it. It's too much, too much... - they don't want to talk. They drive off. After nearly an hour an entire group of people leave the Air-Base for the nearest hotel. It is in this hotel that they were earlier prepared by the OVV specialists who warned them that the viewing of the wreckage can be extremely oppressive.
A group of about 30 people gets out of the bus. They are of different age, nationality and race. One man of medium height is extremely distressed and asks us to direct questions to his wife who can control her emotions better at this difficult moment. - It was heart breaking; all these feelings are still fresh. I looked at this mound of metal scrap and I had to say it out loud to myself that this was the plane in which they all perished. At first sight all of it was hard to comprehend – says Silene Fredriksz-Hoogzand. Her 23 year old son Bryce and two years younger daughter-in-law Daisy Oehlers were on that plane. - Only 2.5 months earlier Daisy lost her mother and she struggled to cope with that loss. That's why we were urging our son to take Daisy for a break – grief stricken Silene says in a hushed voice. Silene is curious why Polish journalists would be interested to hear the story of her loved ones. She heard about Smolensk crash. - I believe some politicians died there – she hesitates. - Is that true that you still don't have neither the wreck nor the black boxes? How's that even possible? - she shakes head in disbelief.
Niemöller emphasizes how important the autopsies were: - First they performed autopsies on the pilot within a week of the bodies arriving in the Netherlands. These examinations could reveal more than black boxes, because the crash was sudden and didn't leave any traces on the recorders.
The victims' bodies will also give more information than the eye witnesses who, even if they saw something, could be in shock and could not remember everything correctly.
“Reading” from the wreckage
On 17th July 2014 Malaysia Airlines Boeing was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur when it was shot down above the Ukraine with 298 people on the board. All passengers were pronounced dead. 193 of them were Dutch. The bodies of the victims, as well as most of the wreckage were transported back to the Netherlands. Debris of the misshapen metal and parts of destroyed plane are located in three hangars; however, only two of them are available for viewings. Sometimes it's really hard to make out which part of the plane you are looking at. A fragment of a stabilizer and the cover of the fuselage with door are two largest remains which draw attention. Touching anything in the hangar is forbidden. Everyone is allowed to walk through the outlined paths only. Taking photos is allowed. - Sara Vernooij, press spokeswoman of the OVV explains that cockpit elements are the most important part of the investigation and they have not been placed for public viewing, because they are already in the process of being reconstructed.
- Many families ask when the reconstruction of the whole plane will begin. They want the investigation to be fast tracked, but they also appreciate what we do for them, including allowing them see the wreck which is of high sentimental value to them – adds Jeannette van der Kloet.
- I went there twice. First time it was an official visit to an extent. I went with the people from the foundation, to check if everything was ready for the arrival of the families. To make sure that they would have appropriate conditions to face this trauma. We organized everything together with the OVV and with the government's help – Piet Ploeg explains. He is the chairman of the foundation for families of victims involved in MH17 crash. He lost his brother, sister-in-law and a nephew in the crash. - On Saturday I came here with my wife. It was a very soul destroying experience. Our loved ones spent their last moments on this plane. You enter the hangar, look at the wreck and you realize that the last thing they saw was the inside of this plane. I was deeply moved – Piet says. We tell him how the Polish government let the Russians treat the wreck of Tu-154M, how it was dumped next to the Smolensk airport and exposed to elements for half a year, only to be later covered by tarpaulin. We tell him how the wreck was washed before it was investigated. He can't believe his ears. For him these are the standards from another world.
Above: Remains of the MH17 wreckage at the train station in Torez
Families, investigators and journalists emphasize that the wreck is a fundamental proof in the investigation. After the reconstruction, the wreck may explain what happened above the Ukrainian city of Torez. - Reconstruction of the wreck should provide the answer to the most important question: whether the plane was shot from the ground or from the air – says Joost Niemöller, an independent investigative journalist who wrote a book on shooting of MH17. In his book he is very critical about the official investigation. The most popular take on this event, also confirmed by the Americans soon after the crash, stipulates that the Boeing was hit by a missile launched from the BUK missile system placed on the territory occupied by the pro-Russian rebels. Joost adds that it is necessary to allow for other possibilities: including an option that BUK could belong to Ukrainian army; or that MH17 was shot down by the Ukrainian SU-25 jet fighter, which was spotted in the vicinity at the time of crash.
Finally, there is a possibility that there was a bomb explosion on board. The last three hypotheses are advocated by the Russians; although the investigation doesn't eliminate any of the options. - I have a feeling that the best version of events for everyone would be a confirmation that some drunk "separatist" launched the missile by mistake. Then any political intricacies of the case could be rejected – Niemöller adds. “Political intricacies” between Russia and the Netherlands could spell a trading disaster for the Dutch who export a substantial part of cultivated flowers and fruits to Russia.
Although families of victims trust the investigators and patiently await the final report, they are also aware that the truth can turn out to be politically uncomfortable. - I'm sure that Russia is responsible for this tragedy. Not “the separatists”, but Russia. Responsibility falls directly on Putin. Everyone knows it, but I'm not sure whether the Netherlands will be brave enough to say it out loud. I'm concerned that due to political reasons, this truth will never come to light – says Silene Fredriksz-Hoogzand.
Last week TV RTL broadcasted, that one of the metal fragments found at the crash site by a Dutch journalist fits the design of a missile used by BUK launchers. Both, the international experts on forensic medicine and analysts from the British consulting IHS Jane defense group, drew attention to the fact that the residue of explosives found on the missile fragment is comparable to the mix used in the Russian missile production. That is indeed very important evidence in the investigation, however, not a conclusive one and the investigators will carry on their work.
On 17th July 2014 the most tragic plane crash happened - plane full of civilian passengers was shot down. For the Dutch prosecutor's office it means the biggest criminal investigation in the history of its existence. The outline for examining this case is well-known to the Polish people. Dutch Safety Board (Onderzoeksraad Voor Veiligheid – OVV) is conducting an investigation which will help to prevent similar incidents in the future. This work can be compared to the work of the Committee for Investigation of National Aviation Accidents (KBWLLP) which was appointed to investigate Smolensk crash. OVV is only looking for the causes of the crash, but it doesn't determine who was responsible for it and it doesn't accuse anyone. The latter is the task of the persecutor's office which conducts the fundamental investigation – similarly to the Polish Military Persecutor's Office which is in charge of the crash from 10th April 2010.
The OVV base their work on the 13th annex to the Chicago Convention which states that the country where the accident happened is responsible for conducting the investigation. The case was handed over to The Hague on Ukraine's request and in line with the bilateral treaty signed on 23rd July (the content available on the Internet). This process is different to the one used five years ago in Smolensk. Then, the Polish Prime Minister didn't even attempt to sign such treaty with Russia, nor started negotiations to handover the investigation to Warsaw. He agreed that the Russian MAK (IAC - Interstate Aviation Committee) would be the institution examining the causes of the tragedy. Its statement became the main source of the world wide information about the Tu-154M crash. The Prime Minister also failed to ask for international help. Ukraine on the other hand turned to ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization) for help. ICAO experts appeared at the crash site just five days later (despite the military hostilities taking place!).
In fact, the international commission was created to work alongside the OVV. Among the experts examining MH17 case there are representatives from Malaysia, Ukraine, Russia, Great Britain, United States and Australia. On the 9th September the preliminary report was made available. It states that the plane was hit by a 'multitude of objects from outside'(pieces of missile which explode before reaching the object). Those pieces were traveling at high velocity and caused the disintegration of the plane in the air. There were no signs of alarm or concern recorded in the cockpit. At the same time the malfunction of the aircraft as the cause of the crash was excluded. The final report is to be released at the end of this year.
The investigation conducted by the persecutor's office is considered to be of more importance from the point of view of families of victims, authorities, and citizens of affected countries. It is a very complicated operation and it can really be admired in comparison to the work of the Polish military prosecutors.
On 28th July the special team composed of over 100 investigators (Joint Investigation Team) was formed. It consisted of representatives from the countries which lost citizens (the Netherlands, Australia, Malaysia, Great Britain, Belgium, Germany, Philippines, Canada, New Zealand, Indonesia, and USA) as well as investigators from the Ukraine, Europol and Interpol.
- The international cooperation is imperative in such a public and extensive investigation, where so many victims and their families are involved. Such cases can't be examined by one institution only. It would be just odd – tells Attorney Antoinette Collignon to the 'wSieci’ magazine. Antoinette Collignon is one of the six lawyers who represent families of victims. She's specializes in international law, especially cases concerning accidents and personal injuries. She emphasizes that, although cooperation with Russia could be useful, it should be treated with caution: - We know that the Russians were trying to impede the investigation from the very beginning. The Prime Minister doesn't trust them, so he limited any help from the Russians to minimal input. This is a good move. Here, in the West, all the circumstances are investigated but the Russians always seem to have a prepared set of conclusions which they try to instill into public opinion. We are interested only in facts – stresses Attorney Collignon.
It's quite an obvious approach for everyone who has basic knowledge about modern Russia. It's a shame that Polish government didn't use the same approach five years ago.
Road to justice
200 of experts were involved in identification of the bodies recovered from MH17 crash (they are still involved, as three people are considered missing). Experts are from seven countries, among them there are 120 from the Netherlands. National Forensic Investigation Team (Landelijk Team Forensische Opsporing – LTFO) is composed of police experts, experts from the Ministry of Defense, forensic pathologists, dentists, geneticists and prosecutors. They perform autopsies alongside body identification. At the military base in Hilversum they examine every part of the body that was recovered at the crash site.
Remains of the MH17 on their way to Holland
- The funeral of my nephew and sister-in-law took place in November. It was also a symbolic funeral for my brother, Alex, although he is still presumed missing. Further remains of my nephew were identified after cremation. This meant we had to organize another funeral ceremony. It depicts the personal hell that we have to go through and how painful and heart breaking life can be– Piet Ploeg explains. The families know what they should be prepared for. But they don't complain. On the contrary – they're grateful that the authorities conduct all the work so carefully.
On the Dutch police website we found information about the identification process. There are answers to over 50 detailed questions which might arise in such event. For example, we can see that the process is based on Interpol regulations and it's the same as in the other countries. But from the painful experience of 10th April we know that the standards are not the same everywhere. After the Smolensk crash, not only postmortem examinations of the bodies weren't carried out, but also the body identification process was flawed with glaring mistakes. To add insult to injury, the already perfunctory examinations were performed in a hurry, because of the pressure to close the coffins for eternity. The whole process lasted less than three weeks. Some families still aren't sure who they really buried and where are other discovered remains of their loved ones.
Fred Westerbeke is an equivalent of the Polish Persecutor General. He supervises the MH17 investigation and during his speeches he emphasizes that despite this being the most difficult investigation the Dutch have ever faced, he believes that it will reach its conclusion by creating an indictment. Could there be issues with different penal codes which are in force in countries of the victims, especially in Malaysia, where the perpetrators would be sentenced to death?
'It won't be a problem. We had a confirmation from Kuala Lumpur that Malaysia won't insist on using their regulations. Location of the court where we'll be asking for justice will depend on few factors: who the accused ones are, where they will be located at the moment of pressing the charges, what extradition regulations could be used and how the cooperation with the other countries will look like’ – Westerbeke elaborated on the national TV NOS.
The deciding factor in choosing the Dutch court would be the number of the victims from the Netherlands and experience of its legal system, especially International Criminal Court in The Hague.
But there is still a long way ahead. For the time being the investigators are still engrossed in tedious collection of the evidence in extremely hard conditions and during hostile activities. According to Dutch media, Russian secret service is trying to break into Dutch police computer systems. The police try to protect everything by destroying telephones and laptops used in Ukraine in case they were infected with spy software.
The criminal procedure won't end the legal battle for justice after MH17 crash. Many civil lawsuits can be expected to follow. Up to date the Malaysia Airlines paid out 5,000 dollars to the families as extra unregulated help. Additionally, they offered 50,000 dollars of compensation. However, according to the Montreal Convention the sum should be closer to 180,000 dollars. Families of the victims have two years to file their claims in court. Some of them have already done it. In addition a mother of one of the four German passengers sued Ukraine for 800,000 dollars for not closing their airspace to civilian planes. Eight families from Australia are planning to sue Ukraine, Russia and Malaysia. Dutch government should be concerned as well. Few days before the crash, and during the meeting in Kiev, one of the Dutch diplomats was supposedly warned about the dangers of sending civilian flights over Ukrainian airspace. Despite that, Ministry of Foreign Affairs didn't alert the airlines. Mark Rutte's cabinet explains that the airlines take responsibility for the safety of their routes.
The lawyers estimate that depending on criminal investigation results the amount of compensation may even reach 10 million dollars.
Also see: "Elsemiek Was My World" - an interview with Hans de Borst.
Hans de Borst met us in his home in Monster near the Hague. He lives alone in a small house. You can see many photographs of his daughter on the walls, and many of her drawings – even those from her early childhood. The 17-year-old teenager was flying to Malaysia with her mother, stepfather and stepbrother.
In the letter you wrote three days after the crash there was one poignant sentence: “I hope you're proud to have shot my daughter. I hope that you will be able to look at yourself in the mirror tomorrow morning”. You directed these words to Mr. Putin, to the leader of the separatists, and to the representatives of the Ukrainian Government. Will the guilty, which caused this tragedy, be found among these people?
Each plane crash has broader range of effects than it may seem. There were 298 people from ten countries on board of the MH17. Each of the victims left loved ones behind. Suddenly, it turned out that there are thousands of people who need help. - We feel like this crash didn't happen seven months ago, but only yesterday. Every day we wake up thinking about this tragedy, about losing our loved ones – Piet Ploeg says. He emphasizes that from the moment it was set up by the families of victims, the foundation could count on help from the authorities in any respect. - We had four meetings in Nieuwegein village near Utrecht which gathered all the families. The king, queen, members of the government, investigators, and representatives of the other authorities participated in the first two of them.
For the few hours they were all there for us, we could talk to everyone, even in private – says Piet. Even though there are a few large organizations in the Netherlands which help the victims of crime, violence and all types of accidents, it turned out that the foundation run by Piet was essential. This time it was decided that the scale of the tragedy was so overwhelming that it was deemed necessary to create another organization which could help only the families of victims involved in MH17 crash.
- We also receive financial help from the government. Our activity requires money, for example for running a website – explains Piet. The website which he talks about is really impressive. It includes every practical piece of information on every imaginable subject. It also has a special page dedicated to legal help and the process of claiming compensation. There also is an extensive counseling page. It contains advice on how to treat children, who lost their parents in the plane crash, or how to react if someone makes tasteless jokes about the crash in front of the victims' families. The website also hosts a special page dedicated to media. The families can learn there that none of the journalist can force them to make any statements. However, should they agree to talk to media, they should be aware of losing anonymity.
Hans de Borst, father of the 17-year old deceased Elsemiek, told us about other forms of help (the interview with Hans is published below).The government organization Slachtofferhulp, which supports families which suffered tragic events, provided Hans with complex care. De Borst showed us another website created by the government. Only the families of victims were given access to it. After logging on to the website it is possible to look through the photos of the victims' belongings, which were recovered from the crash. There are photos of suitcases, bags, clothes, documents, watches, telephones, cameras. If someone recognizes an object, they mark it on the website and later on this object is shown to them to confirm whether it really belonged to someone from the family. Hans often browses this website. He looks for the distinctive pink suitcase which Elsemiek took to Malaysia.
We often hear from the families of victims that they are really grateful to the authorities for the way they have been looking after them. One of only very few setbacks happened not long after the crash. - The families were upset with the TV speech given by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, during which he revealed that one of the victims was found wearing an oxygen mask. This piece of information suggested to the families that their loved ones knew that they were going to die at any moment. This was not necessary the case, such conclusions shouldn't have been drawn – reveals Cyril Rosman, journalist working for “De Persdienst”, the local newspaper.
Above: Hans de Borst
There is also group of special policemen delegated to take care only of the victims' families, they are known as family detectives. - They are first point of information for the relatives. After minister's TV statement those policemen were the ones who sent a letter of apology to the families stating that they were sorry that the families heard such news from TV and asked the families not to misunderstand the minister's speech – Rosman adds. All the families praise this cooperation with the dedicated police unit.
Money which the government donates to the foundation's activities will also be partially spent on the commemoration of the victims. - We are in agreement that the monument dedicated to our loved ones will be erected; maybe not this year, but most likely in the next one. There are several ideas of sites where it could be placed – Piet Ploeg says. - I am thinking about the Amsterdam Schiphol Airport, in front of the terminal from which they took off – points Hans de Borst, adding that it is the place where the Dutch people spontaneously gathered after MH17 crash to lay down flowers. Piet adds that similar events took place in Hilversum, where the identifications are conducted. Other locations are also mentioned, including Eindhoven airport (where the victims' bodies were brought from Ukraine) or The Hague - “city of peace”, where the Palace of Peace is located – the headquarters of International Court of Justice.
- It can't be a monument which expresses anger or bitterness. It should convey feelings of peace and final resting place. We would like our grandchildren to visit it. And we're absolutely sure that the monument will be erected. The families will have the final say on the location of the monument and this choice will be respected by the authorities – summarizes Piet Ploeg.
The openness and sensitivity shown by the authorities towards the citizens are the main differences that we noticed when comparing MH17 crash with Smolensk crash.
Beware of Russia
For the Polish readers it might be surprising how patient and trusting the victims' families are when waiting for the results of two investigations. However, it's worth mentioning that these are very consistent and planned actions, which are overseen by a strong Prime Minister. Mark Rutte quite quickly became a true leader after the crash, although at first his actions were not so effective. - At first the Prime Minister didn't do much. Minister of Foreign Affairs was more proactive – explains Joost Niemöller. He considers Prime Minister of Malaysia as a role model during these tragic events. Despite the threat he flew to Donetsk and demanded the return of the black boxes. 'Who is in charge here? This was my plane, those are my black boxes. Who am I supposed to talk to?' - he asked Najib Tun Razak. Thanks to his actions the black boxes were extracted from pro-Russian rebels. But later it was Mark Rutte who organized transport of the wreckage and bodies back to the country.
- Of course we can stipulate that the investigation isn't transparent, but most of the investigations are exactly the same. This one is a little bit different, because there is an immense public interest in it. We don't have enough knowledge, but there is nothing suspicious about it. Cyril Rosman points out that this is a typical Dutch protocol. However the clarity of investigation could be clouded by something which Rosman calls “old boys’ network” - a group of influential, connected people who have been holding high strategic positions for years while supporting each other. President of the OVV, Tijbe Joustra, held management positions in five ministries and he was a national coordinator responsible for fighting terrorism. His name was among possible candidates for the post of ministry of justice after the previous one was dismissed two weeks earlier. If it turned out that one of the “old boys” didn't complete the procedure, “the investigation might not reveal it”.
Many people we spoke to emphasize that it is not beneficial for the OVV that the Russians are involved in the investigation. Putin is not considered trustworthy in the Netherlands. No one is impressed with the Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov's and his television rants about the lack of transparency in the investigation. - Especially after the MH17 plane crash people share this not exactly fair opinion, that Russia is a communist country where everyone obeys Putin's orders – says Joost Niemöller and reminds us about the event which confirms that Russia worked hard for this lack of trust. On the 21st July, during the press conference which took place four days after the tragedy, Russians showed pictures of the Ukrainian BUK launcher near the front line. This was supposed to be a proof that the crashed was caused by the Ukrainians. But the pictures were presented in the way in which Russians have previously attempted to sneak version of events comfortable for them. Big screen in a big room, two generals by the screen and journalist gathered 50 m in front of it. -On one hand it's not the strongest evidence, but on the other hand all possibilities should be examined - adds the journalist.
- Ukrainian participation in the prosecutor's investigation is equally problematic, because on one hand this country should be treated as potential suspect – Cyril Rosman states and emphasizes that he has no sympathy for Russia, but on the other hand he just wants complete objectivity in explaining the causes.
- Few weeks ago I was in Abu Dhabi where I participated in the biggest military Expo in the world. Russian arms syndicate were also present there. They were displaying the models and the booklets on the BUK missile system. It was a strange feeling – the Russians were advertising the weapons which shot down an airplane with 200 of our citizens on the board. I asked our minister of defense, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, who also attended that expo, how she felt about it. She answered that these companies usually circulate such trade shows with their displays and the best she could do at this moment was to steer away from companies from Ulyanovsk - Cyril explains.
- It also shows that shooting down of MH17 is a traumatic experience for us and we will always remember it, even though for the big world it was only an incident to be quickly forgotten. I'm concerned that our government is aware of that and although they will do everything to uncover the truth, they might be too weak against interests of the world powers – adds the journalist from 'De Persdienst'. He also acknowledges the analogy to the Smolensk crash which is still at the heart of our interest. Smolensk was the subject which was present in Dutch media but 'passed very quickly'.
- I think that your investigation is even more complicated than ours. I could believe that MH17 crash was an accident. But the truth about Smolensk might never come to light because of the 'great politics' – says Cyril. - Joost Niemöller is mostly surprised by the fact that the coffins weren't opened in Poland and postmortem examinations and body identifications weren't conducted. - It looks like a deal between the Polish and the Russians. We won't say anything about you and you won't say anything about us. There are subject which we won't investigate neither together nor separately – he wonders.
Not to miss anything
Niemöller emphasizes how important the autopsies were: - First they performed autopsies on the pilot within a week of the bodies arriving in the Netherlands. These examinations could reveal more than black boxes, because the crash was sudden and didn't leave any traces on the recorders. The victims' bodies will also give more information than the eye witnesses who, even if they saw something, could be in shock and could not remember everything correctly.
Attorney Collignon points out those autopsies had very personal aspect for the families: - All bodies had undergone the examinations, even the smallest elements. This was how the identifications were carried out and it was very important to the families, because not all of them received complete bodies of their loved ones. Imagine that there were families who could only bury a foot belonging to their loved one. For them every, even the smallest part of the body is extremely important. Evidence everyone knows about is not the only one that the investigators have. Persecutor Westerbake emphasizes: - We have many expert analyses, witness' accounts of events, medical forensic analyses, and traditional photographs, but also ones from the radars and satellites.
Especially images from the satellites could be meaningful in this case, as it was in the case of Smolensk crash. - Only two countries know what really happened there. These are Russia and United States – Joost Niemöller speculates and shares his knowledge with us: - Our government won't admit whether USA provided the Netherlands with satellite photos. From my source I know that the Americans showed something, but the photos were not good enough to confirm or exclude anything. For the Dutch it will be more convenient to keep this a secret. Being in possession of satellite photos from 10th April 2010 in Smolensk is also a secret in Poland. Till today we have not received an answer to the question of when exactly did DigitalGlobe Company take the photos and what did Minister Jacek Cichocki do with them since those were passed over to him.
There are not many similarities between Dutch and Polish investigations. Fundamental differences stare us in our faces in the key points. Apart from the most important: reconstruction of the wreck or postmortem examinations – it is worth mentioning the black boxes. Those from MH17 flight were immediately recovered from the pro-Russian rebels and sent to London for the analysis. The black boxes from Tu-154M are still in MAK safe in Moscow.
The bloggers' community play important part in explaining the circumstances of the Malaysian plane crash. Especially proactive approach was shown by the British website Bellingcat.com. While working together with the people from the around the world its creators came across the information about transporting BUK missile system to the place where the missile was launched from. They also found proof in the form of photos on social portals, verified them and put on the Google maps. In this way they recreated the road taken by the vehicle. From the investigative journalists we found out that Dutch prosecutors didn't consider bloggers to be delusional. They were treated as the volunteers whose work could benefit the investigation. The persecutors contacted them and the information collected by the bloggers has been included as vital part the investigation evidence. It is worth to remind how differently the Polish investigation was conducted, the resentment of Polish colonels who investigated Smolensk crash towards not only bloggers but also professors who provided scientific research which unveiled the circumstances leading to demise of Polish President.
One more, seemingly unimportant element of the Dutch investigation - on the police website there is special page provided for people who want to leave multimedia materials which might be helpful in the MH17 crash investigation. Everyone can upload photos or movies up to 100 MB which will be verified by the experts. Police thanks the citizens in advance; everyone who would like to help.
Poland and the Netherlands: two countries, two investigations, two worlds; almost two civilizations. The way in which MH17 crash is investigated is almost a ready to use indictment against the Polish authorities and persecutors. Our 'elites' cannot hide behind helplessness. This is not about the possibilities but about the standards and willingness to obey them. The Netherlands is not a super power. It just uses the existing international law regulations; the ones that Polish government was unable to use when investigating Smolensk crash. It uses their internal regulations, as opposed to our persecutor's office, which despite having such possibility (and obligation!) to do postmortem examinations, decided against such opportunity. The Netherlands knows what the allies and international organizations are for. Polish authorities in Warsaw shied away from them. But above all, the Dutch treated their dead citizens with proper respect. And it wasn't about dead president, ministries, army generals, chiefs of institutions or other national VIPs. The Dutch trust their government and appreciate the way it approached this national tragedy. And it's beyond them that in Poland the opposite is true.
Translation: Anna Zatorska-Batt, Magdalena Czarnecka
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The trip to Smolensk was expected to highlight Russia finally admitting culpability in the massacre, after long having blamed it on the Germans, an atrocity they had tried to conceal for over 70 years.
As for the reception committee, it had different ideas. Putin wasn’t looking forward to such an occasion. Into this poisonous reception brew was President Kaczynski’s well-known public criticism of Moscow and Putin, a habit that has ended the lives of others within Russia – and abroad. A few discouraging Russian requirements – that Kaczynski could not attend in any official capacity – did not halt the Poles. Kaczynski would go anyway on non-official, “personal” business. To Russians, such a distinction would be meaningless, not lessening the possible international excoriation of such an event. A problem ripe for a modern, Russian solution: a tragic, ‘natural’ accident.
World-renowned forensic pathologist goes on the record: "I have been doing autopsies for 50 years, and I've investigated more than fifteen, twenty airplane crashes […] I've been in countries all over the world where families think that the government is hiding something. Whether it is Zimbabwe or Israel, or Philippines, the government may not like an outside person checking to make sure they got it right. [But,] they never interfered with that. The family, the next of kin, always has the right to do what the wishes of the family are. In the 21st century, the body of the dead person no longer belongs to the state. It belongs to the family. So, it is unusual - something that I have never experienced before - where the government [of Poland] has not permitted the famil[ies]" to conduct independent forensic examinations of their loved ones' remains [...] I've never heard of a body coming back to a country and the family being unable to open up a casket. I've never heard of the family not being able to get an autopsy… Read more here
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