Flight MH17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014. All 298 people on board were killed, including nearly 200 Dutch people.
“ Unique and Historic `
As of Monday, 91 relatives will file their statements within 15 minutes each, and in November eight more relatives will do so. This is done directly in court or via secure live streaming.
“This is a unique and historic event,” says Sander de Lange of Legal Aid Team MH17. “Never before in Dutch criminal justice have so many people spoken during criminal proceedings.”
What is the right thing to say?
Since 2005, victims have been allowed to tell their story while dealing with a criminal case. Persons who have been the victim of a crime that can be claimed for eight years in prison or more are eligible.
In addition, the right to speak applies to a number of criminal offenses referred to in the law, such as some sexual offenses and very serious traffic accidents.
Victims were initially only allowed to speak about the consequences of the crime on their lives. Since July 1, 2016, everything can be discussed in the victim’s statement: from evidence to the amount of punishment.
The purpose of this right to speak, says de Lange, is to show the huge impact of the disaster on the lives of the next of kin. The judges will take that into account in sentencing.”
Relatives can say whatever they want. “But we advise against making judgments about the suspects now, because it is not yet clear what exactly happened. This could harm the process, because the suspects may take the position that they have been previously convicted.”
Peter van der Meer will be one of the first speakers on Monday. He lost his three daughters in the disaster. Sophie, Fleur and Pinty. 12, 10 and 7 years old. “I want to give them a face.”
For many people, the disaster was a long time ago, says van der Meer. “For me it is the daily fare.” Every morning he wakes up to the pain of what happened. “This begins with my daughters’ pictures.” They are, among other things, in the “Girl’s Room”, as shown in the video below. “This is a kind of memory room.”
Van der Meer’s statement will be about the first weeks after the disaster, and so far. “At first you think the pain will go down. It won’t last. This will go on until I die.” He may still be exhausted after a week of good sleep and enjoy a lesser life. By his statement he wants to show his pain and what he lacks.
Persuading people to tell the truth
He doesn’t expect the judges to do much with this statement. “The judge is independent and professional. I don’t think they take that into account in their judgment. But they are people too, so they will get something out of it. They may somehow bring it into judgment.”
Van Der Meer especially hopes that the statements will ensure that people who have anything to do with the disaster will be able to tell part of the truth. Or the whole truth.
This is how relatives prepare for the right to speak
Sander de Lange of MH17 Legal Aid showed all relatives how to prepare a statement.
“We’ve also given practical advice. Take your time or drink a glass of water if you can’t handle it anymore. And think about who will take over the statement for you if it doesn’t really help anymore.”
Anne Faber’s family was also invited to a meeting to tell her about her experience with the right to speak.
Jane Hornics will also speak on the last session day. Lost Hornikx Her 31-year-old daughter Astrid In the MH17 disaster. And she’ll talk about the impact of that on Friday, September 24 at 10:00 a.m.
This is exciting, she says. “It seems like the last thing we can do for our late daughter Astrid.”
She and her husband are staying in Zeeland at a camp site where they often come with Astrid. “We are looking for peace here. This is how we prepare ourselves.” She has something she wants to say on paper. You read it every now and then.
At first, Jane and her husband did not like that they were not allowed to talk until the last day. “But then we realized that the 24th was also the birthday of her deceased friend Bart. We said, ‘They arranged it for us there.'”
Jane and her husband think it is very important that the judges listen to what the crash is doing to them. “Everyone should know that. What has been taken away from us. Our most valuable asset, our daughter. You hear a lot about the process, but not how relatives are doing.”
Because it says it goes up and down. “Sitting in a corner on the sofa doesn’t solve anything, so you’re looking for a way to continue. There are also nice moments. But you always have a backpack.”
What do they hope to achieve? “It is being listened to. It makes an impression. Nobody can solve it, but we would like to let the judges know about the impact of the disaster on our lives. I’d rather push the perpetrators under the noses of what she has done to us.”
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