Aviation

Dutch remember MH17 victims, hunt killers

AFP

Dutch flags will fly at half-mast as families remember those killed when flight MH17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine a year ago, with all efforts now focused on catching those responsible.

About 2000 grieving relatives are expected at a private ceremony in the central Netherlands on Friday, with Prime Minister Mark Rutte and other top officials expected to attend.

But as relatives of those who died in the Malaysia Airlines tragedy on July 17 last year still struggle to come to terms with their grief, the focus is shifting to tracking down the perpetrators and putting them on trial.

All 298 passengers and crew – the majority of them Dutch – on board the Boeing 777 died when the routine flight between Amsterdam and Kuala Lumpur was shot down during a bout of heavy fighting between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian separatists.

Kiev and the West point the finger at the separatists, saying they may have used a BUK surface-to-air missile supplied by Russia to down the plane.

But Moscow denies involvement and instead accuses Ukraine’s military.

“The biggest question still remains: who is responsible?” Dennis Schouten, chairman of the MH17 Air Disaster Foundation, set up last year to represent relatives of those killed, told AFP.

The Netherlands has been charged with leading the retrieval of victims’ remains and investigating the cause of the crash, as well as finding and punishing possible perpetrators.

Apart from two passengers, both Dutch, the remains of all other victims have been found and positively identified.

The Dutch Safety Board (OVV) is expected to release an eagerly awaited final report into the cause of the crash during the first week of October.

But OVV spokeswoman Sara Vernooij stressed the report will only address the cause of the crash, and will not identify those believed responsible.

A criminal probe by a joint investigation team consisting of Australian, Belgian, Dutch, Malaysian and Ukrainian detectives is underway.

Dutch chief prosecutor Fred Westerbeke last month told journalists many “persons of interest have been identified” but a dossier enabling a trial would not be ready before the end of the year at least.

The UN Security Council adopted resolution 2166 which demanded those responsible “be held to account and that all states cooperate fully with efforts to establish accountability”.

Malaysia, the Netherlands and others have floated the idea of a UN-backed tribunal, an idea to which veto-wielding Security Council member Russia is opposed.

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