Prosecutors want anonymous video interrogation MH17 witness in court

The identity of thirteen witnesses in the MH17 case will remain secret. According to the examining magistrate, these witnesses are entitled to protection because they may feel threatened or endangered. According to the Public Prosecution Service there are "significant risks for the witnesses".

Not much has been announced yet about the status of those 'anonymous witnesses'. For example, it is not clear whether they still live or reside in Ukraine or Russia, or whether they are housed elsewhere with Dutch assistance. Their statements are essential for the burden of proof against the current four suspects, and possibly also for future new suspects.

It is also unclear whether they enjoy the same protection as 'anonymous' witnesses as 'crown witnesses' in regular (major) Dutch criminal cases. In some cases, they receive a (generous) financial compensation for lost income or damage, or even a different identity and security.

It is striking that most witnesses who receive protection were only heard in 2019. This was done by a Dutch examining magistrate ('investigating judge'). Their statements were recorded on video, the witnesses not recognizable. The three Dutch prosecutors ('the prosecutors') and lawyers of the suspects ('the defense') were not present at those interrogations.

With one witness, the request to keep the identity secret was rejected by the court. The examining magistrate believes that this witness might feel threatened by his statement, but it would be practically impossible to guarantee the anonymity of that witness. It is not yet clear what the latter means and what it means. It is also unclear whether that one witness will have to appear in court.

The three prosecutors have asked the court to compile a 'summary' of the video interview of witness M58. He has recently released his identity, but is still treated as anonymous witness in the process. According to the prosecutors, the suspect himself was present at the shooting of the BUK rocket, and he saw and spoke to several Russian officials there.

The prosecutors also want to test five other anonymous witnesses. If necessary, this can again be done anonymously by an examining magistrate, provided that the prosecutors and lawyers can submit written questions in advance. In this way they can achieve that a larger part of the underlying evidence becomes public. This can also partly be used to refute the accusation that a large part of the evidence is anonymous, and could therefore be 'suspicious'.

The seven lawyers of the next of kin have also argued in court that a larger part of the evidence must still be made public. With that, grieving family members can get a better insight into what exactly happened on that fatal date of 17 July 2014.

The Public Prosecution Service also wants the MH17 court at Schiphol to look at the reconstructed reconstruction of the shot down Malaysian plane. The debris of the plane shot down in East Ukraine was transferred to the Netherlands for the JIT investigation in 2015 and is now being reconstructed as a half-wreck in a hangar of the Gilze-Rijen Air Force Base.

The three prosecutors made their proposal for a 'check' on the second day of the criminal trial against the four suspects. According to the prosecutors, it is important for the judges to “form a complete picture of the damage” with their own eyes. The Public Prosecution Service wants the court to decide in the short term whether there will be a chimney. This could possibly take place in June, when the second part of the process starts. A third session block is planned for early September, and a third phase for February next year.