Summary of the day, 7 June 2021
Today the trial proper opened in the MH17 criminal proceedings. On this first day the topics discussed included the state of play in the investigation by the investigating judge and a brief recap of the inspection. The court also delivered an introduction to the discussion of the prosecution file in the days ahead.
Additional investigation by the investigating judge
The investigating judge indicated in writing prior to this session the state of play in the investigation in progress. That investigation has not been completed yet.
The investigating judge has reported that (extensive) requests have been submitted, asking the U.S. authorities to make available or disclose to satellite footage, subject to specified conditions as needed. This concerns satellite footage of the launch on 17 July 2014 of a (BUK) missile from a location south of Snizhne. The satellite footage appears to be available with the U.S. authorities. Those authorities have referred to a memorandum they drafted from 2016, stating that because of ‘the obligation to protect intelligence sources and methods,’ they cannot provide additional information. The investigating judge cannot reasonably envisage another way of carrying out the instruction from the court to request the satellite footage or to access and assess certain data related to it.
Visual report and photos of the inspection
The inspection on 26 May 2021 was conducted as planned. A visual report was compiled of this inspection, and photos were taken of the pieces of wreckage that figure in the (incriminating or exculpatory) evidence. No other remarks were made about the inspection.
Adding documents to the case file
The prosecution requested that documents be added to the case file. The defence objected to including several of these documents, arguing that they are not neutral or objective. The court has decided that these documents will be added to the case file. This is because they are what are known as visualisations of documents (assembled in a format selected by the prosecution) that are already part of the case file. The court is also allowing a chart of disclosure requests to be added, because it is purely informative and does not constitute evidence.
Claims for damages by the relatives
At this time claims for damages have been submitted on behalf of 299 relatives. The court has stipulated time frames for the defence, the prosecution and the counsel for the relatives to submit written statements about those claims. Those claims could be discussed more extensively during the hearing block in September 2021, when the relatives interested may exercise their right to address the court.
Introduction to the trial
The court explained how the discussion of the documents in the prosecution file will be structured in the days ahead.
In discussing the documents, the court is required to consider what the prosecution holds against the accused (the charges). Ultimately, the court will need to decide whether the accused have committed these offences. To this end, the following questions will need to answered:
- Was Flight MH17 shot down with a BUK missile?
- Was a BUK missile launched from a farm field near Pervomaiskyi?
- Did the(se) accused play a role in this?
The court will discuss the highlights of the documents addressing these questions in neutral terms. That means that the content of those documents will be shared in brief. Wherever the court discusses conclusions or assumptions, these are the conclusions and assumptions that the investigation team reached from conducting the investigation. The court will not state whether it agrees with those conclusions, or whether it is of the opinion that findings from the investigations will weigh in favour of or against the accused. That will become clear in the judgement in due time.
The court has adjourned until tomorrow morning at 10.00 hours, when the documents in the case file concerning the question as to whether Flight MH17 was shot down with a BUK missile will be discussed. Perhaps the question about the launch site will start to be discussed tomorrow as well.