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» MH17: ? »  DSB JIT » JIT: . 06.06.2016


JIT: . 06.06.2016

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Digital magazine about the MH17 criminal investigation
Today, the JIT published a digital magazine about the criminal investigation into the crash of flight MH17. The magazine contains information about the manner in which the investigation is conducted. Relatives of the victims of the crash have already received the magazine some days ago.

The magazine is published in anticipation of the presentation of the first results of the criminal investigation, which will take place after the summer.

The JIT consists of PPS and Police of the Netherlands, Australia, Malaysia, Belgium and Ukraine. These countries work together in the criminal investigation, that is aimed at tracking down the persons who are responsible for the crash of MH17 and bringing them to justice.

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MH17:

six aspects
of the criminal investigation explained

Table of contents

Introduction

Forensic research into debris

Field Office in Kiev

Collecting soil samples in disputed territory

Investigation into the weapon system

Working together in the JIT

Legal Assistance

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Table of contents

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Forensic research into debris in Gilze-Rijen

Eleven containers completely packed with remnants of the crashed MH17. The forensic researchers search for the proverbial needle in

a haystack at the Gilze-Rijen airbase.

Within these containers there are many heavy aircraft components, sometimes weighing up

to 6000 kilos. Every piece passes through their hands at least five times in order to find that crucial piece of evidence.

Using crane trucks and forklifts, painstaking work is being done inside the military hangar.

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Field Office in Kiev

An incredible amount of research material, differing legal systems and initial unfamiliarity with each other. Despite this, both Australian and Dutch members working in the Field Office in Kiev have managed to build good relationships with each other and with the Ukraine to effectively conduct the investigation into the MH17 crash.

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Collecting soil samples in disputed territory

How do you perform a criminal investigation within a disputed border region, where gun battles are taking place almost daily? Research leader Daan Noort of the Royal Netherlands Military Constabulary [Koninklijke Marechaussee] speaks about the mission to Eastern Ukraine where, amongst other things, soil samples were collected from the alleged launch sites. The mission finally succeeded in gaining access to the self-proclaimed Peoples Republic Donetsk, but the Luhansk region remained closed.

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Investigation into the  weapon system

Finding practical, accessible and especially reliable information about a missile system is a major effort. Moreover, one source is no source, so that means validate, validate and validate again! Investigators do everything in their power in order to find the necessary evidence.

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Five countries, one investigation

Five countries, the Netherlands, Australia, Belgium, Malaysia and Ukraine form the

Joint Investigation Team (JIT): that means differences in language, culture and legal systems. In the JIT the team solves practical problems about investigation requests and information exchange. Although many complex challenges remain.

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Requests for legal assistance to eighteen countries

Without the formal permission of another country, police officers are not allowed to speak to people in that country, let alone formally interrogate them. The same applies for all investigative activities. The powers of the Dutch police do not cross the border. In order to conduct an investigation abroad formal requests for legal assistance are required. The Netherlands has made many such requests for legal assistance to eighteen different countries.

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Introduction
For nearly two years now we have been working on the criminal investigation into the crash of flight MH17. A long period in which we, with a large team, did our utmost to find out the truth about the cause of the crash. The objective still is to bring the perpetrators to justice.

With this e-zine I would like to offer you more insight into the criminal investigation, since we receive a lot of questions about it. What is happening in the investigation? Who are working on it? What about the cooperation between the different countries? The e-zine focuses on a number of important aspects from the investigation, such as the forensic investigation and the investigation into the weapon. In addition, some people involved tell more about the manner in which the investigation is organised, e.g. the cooperation within the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) and the Field Office in Kiev.

As mentioned before: the ultimate trial of the perpetrators is a long-term process. A team consisting of passionate and dedicated members is working hard to realise this, which will also be demonstrated by the stories in the e-zine. I hope those stories provide a clearer picture of what is going on in the criminal investigation and the way in which we are working to find out the truth about the shooting down of flight MH17.



Fred Westerbeke

Chief Public Prosecutor of the National Office of the Public Prosecution Service

Coordinator of the JIT

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Forensic research into debris in Gilze-Rijen

Hard graft in a military hangar
Eleven containers, crammed full with remainders from the crashed MH17 - That is the proverbial haystack that forensic researchers at Gilze-Rijen Air Force Base have to search through completely. Besides this, there are heavy airplane parts, some weighing as much as 6000 kilos. Everything will go through their hands at least five times in order to locate crucial pieces of evidence.

Normally, the Crime Scene is taped off with red and white tape, only accessible for the police. The location where the debris of the MH17 was found was unguarded. Forensic researcher Jouke Jonker shows a press photograph by way of illustration, on which a cyclist passes a piece of wreckage in a cornfield. Everybody had access, except for us.

X-ray and CT Scan street

Immediately after the crash in July 2014, the remains of the victims came to The Netherlands. In the Korporaal van Oudheusden barracks in Hilversum the identification of human remains takes place. Simultaneously, within 24 hours an additional street with X-ray and CT Scan equipment is set up on the site for the criminal investigation. Radiologists keep their eyes fixed on X-rays and CT scans to identify any foreign material.

In this way, the research team finds about thirty usable parts, each of these smaller than a cubic centimetre. These minuscule parts may prove to be of vital importance to complete the jigsaw. But the investigators will discover that only much later.

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Mobile CT scanner units make CT scans of the human remains of the victims. Among other things foreign materials are searched for.

Debris

In November 2014 the research team can fit out a Defence hangar at Gilze-Rijen. In December 2014 numerous trucks arrived carrying pieces of wreckage; an impressive procession. We are used to investigating details, but now it was a whole airplane full, says Wilton Derks (Forensics employee).

The investigators are aware how difficult it is to assess the usability of the material transported from the Ukraine. The pieces of wreckage were transported in train carriages and after that upon trucks for many kilometres. Traces of a missile, for example, may have come off from one piece or the wreckage and fallen onto another during transport. What then is the evidential value of the material?

Inside out

With combined effort, the team meticulously scour the pieces of wreckage transported to Gilze-Rijen on the trucks. Some months later, they again search wreckage transported in another eight shipping containers. While doing so, the team is required to wear special protective clothing, because of the possible presence of carbon fibres from the airplane that are more harmful for ones health as asbestos.

Each of wreckage pieces is meticulously examined. What kind of damage does it have? How could that damage have been caused? Which theories can these pieces confirm or invalidate?

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The pieces of debris of the MH17 are brought inside a hall on Gilze-Rijen airbase one by one. Some weigh more than 6000 kilos.
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Some of the debris contains sand and other small small particles. Each of them is shaken above a sheet and further examination is conducted.
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On the floor the contour of the aircraft has been drawn with tape. The parts are then laid out on the proper spot.
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Each piece of debris is examined to within the millimetre.

Childrens cuddly toys and photo albums

Characteristic for this investigation is that we change perspective very regularly, says team leader Dennis Spies. What would a lawyer say about this? How does the public prosecutor see this? Can we give a definite answer to a critical question? We continuously have to keep a broad view. At the same time we chronically suffer from impatience, both from ourselves and from our environment.

Among the belongings the team finds childrens cuddly toys, pink princess trolleys and photo albums from victims who have photographed themselves in front of major European landmarks. Of all the items recovered these private items have the greatest personal impact on the team. Marjolijn van den Berg (administrative support) remembers a piece of cabin furniture in which a half-eaten bag of Lays crisps was found, then, you think straight away of that little child who half emptied this bag.

Tower wagons

In the end, about 30 to 35 percent of the crashed airplane arrived in The Netherlands. The pieces vary from 1 cubic centimetre to debris weighing 6000 kilos. Investigators need equipment ranging from microscopes to fork-lift trucks, cranes and tower wagons. All parts are carefully numbered, photographed and described in detail. For the digital reconstruction they take 8000 separate photographs of the wreckage.
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Work is carried out with much attention to detail. Each piece of debris, large and small, is given its own identification number.

Breakthrough

Back in a Ukrainian field remains from what is suspected to be a Buk missile are retrieved. But how can it be proven if this is the missile that caused the crash? In an experts meeting, investigators from various JIT countries try, through tedious forensic work, to allocate the missile parts to a certain source. We can allocate various small parts to a missile, says Jonker, it is really drudgery.

All samples go to the Dutch Forensic Institute (NFI), which compares all materials found to each other. Further study of the small metal parts found on the bodies of some casualties provides a breakthrough. The fact is that on those parts zirconium has been found, a substance that is only used in the cockpit windows. This is a strong indication that the metal parts located in the victims came from outside, passing through the window pane of the cockpit. Even more important is that these parts were found in several casualties, says Jonker, that makes it improbable that this was manipulated. The providing of this kind of evidence; that is the power of forensic research.
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Iron particles discovered during the search, distinguished by surface corrosion, most probably do not belong to the aircraft. These particles are sent to the NFI for analysis.

Jigsaw pieces

Because none of the teams has any experience with such a complex investigation of this type on such a large scale, the researchers must rely on themselves during the examination. That means being innovative, drawing on ones professional networks and experience, and learning a lot on the job to solve problems as the examination progresses.

The team has achieved some good results, with the team locating several pieces of forensic evidence. According to Dennis Spies, that shows that this investigation forms a largely labour-intensive but still elementary part of the whole criminal investigation. After almost two years of daily investigation, I still see an unremitting passion and professionalism of the colleagues, Spies says, we can only write a report when we have had all jigsaw parts in our hands. That is why this type of investigation is the most time-consuming by far. But fortunately, that does provide much.

Not identified

What really does bother them? Unfortunately, up until now they havent been successful in identifying the last two victims. We have got the maximum out of it, says Jonker. All bags have been emptied on the tables. We went through it with magnifying lenses and tweezers. We have done everything to filter the last mortal remains from it.
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At the Gilze-Rijen airbase the debris of the MH17 is assembled into a reconstruction of the aircraft.
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The location of the impact of the weapon is reconstructed with rope.
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Each impact has its own number.
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The cockpit, as seen from the inside of the aircraft.

Forensic research

For forensic research, the National Investigation Service closely collaborates with investigating officers from Australia, Belgium and Ukraine.  Remote also Malaysia is involved.  Jointly, they have set outlines for the investigation. The broader the investigation is supported, the better the presentation in court.
With their searching, investigators have to take different legal systems into account. In Australia, all material must be physically presented in court, during which the experts shed their light on it. That is not always necessary in The Netherlands.
In Gilze-Rijen, some tens of people have been working for quite some time every day doing  forensic research: police investigators, external experts, international partners and representatives from the Dutch Forensic Institute (NFI). At the busiest time, almost 100 people were working there, including people from the Dutch Safety Board.

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Field Office in Kiev

Developing confidence,
step by step

An incredible amount of research material; differing legal systems and initial unfamiliarity with each other. Despite this, both Australian and Dutch members working in the Field Office in Kiev have managed to build good relations with each other and with the Ukraine to effectively conduct the investigation into the MH17 crash.

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n an office building in Kiev, Australian and Dutch investigating officers are working in cramped conditions in a small room. The working conditions are far from perfect, but the small room has a great advantage: the investigating officers cannot possibly get round each other.

They are professionals who recognize each others love for the police work. They understand each others circumstances. And they are, regardless of their country of origin, motivated to do their utmost to uncover the truth.

That is why we joined the police, says Andrew Donoghoe, a Detective Superintendent and the Senior Investigating Officer from the Australian Federal Police (AFP). He leads a team of 15 people in The Netherlands and the Ukraine, among whom include investigators, forensic specialists and intelligence analysts, As police we quickly appreciate each others skills and experience, and understand how and why we are doing this work.

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The Europol Siena program (Secure Information Exchange Network) was chosen for the exchange of information in the JIT. With this system files can be shared securely, quickly and safely by all countries involved in the investigation.

Tapped telephone conversations

Beyond the investigation area of the MH17 investigators office is a long narrow room filled with desks, after which there is another small room. Not exactly a room like you may imagine on the basis of the name Field Office, but still, it is the name used for this accommodation.

Since the first week of September 2014, investigating officers from The Netherlands and Australia have worked here. They work in close cooperation here with the Security and Investigation Service of the Ukraine (SBU). Immediately after the crash, the SBU provided access to large numbers of tapped telephone conversations and other data.

Russian-speaking investigating officers

Both the Australian and Dutch police identified Ukrainian and Russian-speaking police officers amongst their personnel to work in the Field Office. These investigating officers listen to telephone conversations in order to classify the importance of the material. They also search through audio recordings with special computer programs for the name of the airplane and other important search terms. Locally recruited interpreters translate all relevant conversations into English, the working language of the Joint Investigation Team (JIT).

We really have to pick out the scraps, says Gert van Doorn, who, on behalf of the Dutch police, set up the Field Office in Kiev. For example, someone mentions the names of his children in a telephone conversation. With that, we can try to identify this person. We are glad about that, but obviously all this is still very time-consuming.
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The many dictionaries are indispensible. Especially the specialist dictionaries about, inter alia, different military terminology and translations of the criminal and military laws of each country.

More and more flexible

The amount of data surrounding the time of the crash is enormous. Therefore, the Dutch offered to send their own specialists to Kiev to analyse the data with special programs.
Quickly, the analysis techniques from The Netherlands proved to be of a much higher level than those of the Ukraine. The systems the Dutch investigators use to handle and interrogate big data are exceptionally good, says Donoghoe, this is the best standard of all countries concerned, so all of the other teams have accepted that as the standard for this investigation.

At first rather formal, cooperation with the SBU became more and more flexible. In particular because of the data analysis, we were able to prove our added value, says Van Doorn. Since then, we notice in all kinds of ways that they deal with us in an open way. They share their questions with us and think along as much as they can.
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In the Field Office Dutch and Australian detectives work closely together with Ukranian detectives and the public prosecutor. Pictured here, from the upper left to the lower right:
D. Fedirko (Investigating officer with the SBU), D. Ziuzia (Investigating officer with the SBU),
I. Yanovskyi (Investigating officer with the SBU) and O. Peresada (Prosecutor of the Prosecutor General 's Office of Ukraine).

Cross-checks

With the tapped telephone conversations from SBU, there are millions of printed lines with metadata, for example, about the cell tower used, the duration of the call and the corresponding telephone numbers. The investigating officers sort out this data and connect it to validate the reliability of the material. When, for example, person A calls person B, it must be possible to also find this conversation on the line from person B to person A. When somebody mentions a location, that should also correlate with the cell tower location that picked up the signal. If these cross-checks do not tally, then further research is necessary.

By now, the investigators are certain about the reliability of the material. After intensive investigation, the material seems to be very sound, says Van Doorn, that also contributed to the mutual trust.

26 hours flying time

There are some circumstances that still make the investigation difficult and time consuming. First of all, there are all kinds of practical issues connected with international cooperation.

For instance, a solution had to be found for access to joint computer networks and contacts with each police force. The Australian investigators find themselves a 26 hour flight away from their home country and have to deal with a large time difference. For us Australians, it is more difficult to get into contact with our home base, which is why our operation is quite isolated in Kiev, says Donoghoe.

Also arrangements needed to be made regarding procedures, administrative processes and witness hearings. Although Ukrainian, Belgian and Dutch legal systems do not vary very much,there are large differences with Australias legal sysyem, which works in accordance with the Anglo-Saxon Common Law system. Here we have agreement amongst the JIT countries to use the system or procedure with the highest standards; this produces the least risk with future legal action, says Donoghoe.

The thing is to see how you can keep it workable, says Van Doorn, we like practical solutions. That means poldering [the Dutch practice of policy-making by consensus].

Eureka moment

Every morning, a minibus brings investigating officers from the hotel to the Field Office and back again in the evening after their long days. In the meantime, the investigating officers make various interesting discoveries. Every time persons or locations are identified, they experience a eureka moment, especially if after several checks all data prove to be correct.
This is the most complex and difficult investigation I have ever been involved with in my police career, says Donoghoe, but we are all extremely motivated to do the best investigation possible. We wont stop before the perpetrators of this tragedy can be brought to court.

Field Office in Kiev

Every day in the Field Office in Kiev, investigating officers from Australia and The Netherlands work on the criminal investigation into MH17. There are four investigating officers from Australia, who are stationed in Kiev on three month rotations. The Dutch police have two teams of about five people, who rotate in and out each fortnight. Furthermore, six interpreters from the Ukraine are also active, translating all relevant material from Russian or Ukrainian into English.

The investigating officers are engaged in the identification of people in telephone conversations and from visual material, information exchange with The Netherlands and telecommunications analysis. In addition, the investigating officers have carried out more than 80 witness hearings.

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Collecting soil samples in disputed territory

Doing everything that is possible
How do you perform a criminal investigation within a disputed border region, where gun battles are taking place almost daily? Research leader Daan Noort speaks about the mission to Eastern Ukraine where, amongst other things, soil samples were collected from the alleged launch sites.


Endless fields of grain, thats what Daan Noort (Colonel with the Royal Netherlands Marechaussee and operational head of Forensic Research National Police) saw in Eastern Ukraine last summer. The disputed area used to be the granary of the former Soviet Union, and this summer it is still full of corn. Besides golden cornstalks in a sun-drenched landscape, Noort saw beautiful historic cities and self-confident people.

But gun battles could be heard daily, sometimes less than a kilometre away. To and from the border, investigators saw kilometres-long queues. At one stage near a military complex, they received a warning that they had better make a hasty departure.

If Noort had to summarize his experience in one word, it would be, surreal.
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Soil samples investigation in Eastern Ukraine.

Soil samples and network measuring

Last summer, Noort was in Eastern Ukraine for 10 days with his research team. The most important objective of this mission was taking soil samples in order to determine the alleged launch site of the missile and undertaking technical research to determine the location of cell towers and to identify and document the telephone network in Eastern Ukraine.

Beforehand, it was unclear whether the soil samples would yield useful information. After all, the fields had been covered in snow and probably been ploughed and sown again. Torrential rain might have washed away important trace evidence. It would be extraordinary to find trace remains of rocket fuel or other traces of a possible launch.

We still went looking for that, because it is important to do everything within your capabilities, said Noort, criminal investigation is simply nothing more or less than independent research and establishing the truth, to find both incriminating and exculpatory evidence.

Convoy

On 12 June 2015 the team flew from Eindhoven to Kharkiv in a Hercules aircraft.

Three days later, investigators drove in a convoy of four vehicles to the research area.

To do so, they had to visit the two self-proclaimed people's Republics, known as Donetsk and Luhansk. The Netherlands does not maintain official contacts with local authorities there. Therefore, the team was accompanied by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).

In the Donetsk region - where the remains of the MH17 came down - Noort met the man who had earlier fulfilled an important role in enabling the 'recovery mission' into the Ukraine to recover the victims, their personal belongings and plane debris.

To look each other in the eye

It was agreed that the OSCE would carry out any negotiations with the local authorities. The role of the mission leader was limited to giving a technical explanation. The approach in these situations is always focused on gaining confidence, says Noort, do not do anything that you would not allow yourself either. We came with advanced research material, while they have to rely on outdated gear. Without properly explaining what our equipment is for, amongst others, network measurement equipment could also be mistaken for espionage material. To still bring this kind of things to a successful conclusion, you need to look each other in the eye. Part of that is that you respect each other as professionals.
Eventually, the man asked his superiors to cooperate with the mission. And so we managed to enter the research locations in the Donetsk region. The freedom we eventually got to be allowed to do our work showed something of confidence in our approach and intent, says Noort.
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Column during soil samples investigation in Eastern Ukraine under the protection of the OSCE.

Launching sites

In the Donetsk region, the team visited all indicated soil research sites that play a role in the possible scenarios developed by the Joint Investigation Team (JIT). The JIT also examines those scenarios in other ways.

Beforehand the investigators had the positions of all locations available and had also worked the locations out on road maps. We didn't want to go wandering around on site, if for example, our GPS equipment couldn't make contact with satellites.

Nearly a year later they could finally secure the desired soil samples from the clay soil at locations the leaders of the JIT had specified.

Independent

The team also investigated the telephone network. They managed to do so in different places and along several routes in the Donetsk region. Unfortunately, the team was not allowed to conduct a technical investigation into the network and cell towers in the region of the self-proclaimed People's Republic of Luhansk.

According to one scenario, known from open sources, a missile installation would have been driven from the border through this area to Donetsk, explains Noort, with measurements we wanted to verify if that information can indeed be correct. For the criminal investigation it is desirable to also make those independent observations oneself.

Even with much insistence the team didn't manage to enter this region. In talks with the OSCE, the representatives of the self-proclaimed People's Republic did not allow access. It is unfortunate that this part didn't work out, but we have high hopes that the measurements we have been able to do in the Donetsk region have yielded sufficient results. Moreover, the most important thing is that we did try.

Chapter

After ten days the mission was completed. After returning to the Netherlands, Noort and the team submitted their report. The secured soil samples were transferred to the team leader of the JIT. Chemical research and analysis should reveal whether the result is supportive, with incriminating or exculpatory evidence.

In my 36-year career with the Royal Netherlands Marechaussee this mission is a very special chapter, says Noort. As the only team, we have been on the alleged sites of the launch, searching for evidence of an act that has caused so much grief to those directly involved, an event that has had a huge impact on our society and the world around us. Recognizing that nothing of what you see over there actually needs to be so, we have therefore done everything in our power.

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Soil samples investigation in Eastern Ukraine.

Soil samples and network measurements in Eastern Ukraine

Last year the Netherlands initiated a research mission to eastern Ukraine. The mission aimed to gather evidence to support or reject various scenarios on the circumstances of the air disaster. The mission was facilitated by the OSCE. (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe).

The Police and Defence forces asked Colonel Daan Noort (Royal Netherlands Marechaussee) to lead the mission. Defence provided the logistical support and security. The team consisted of experts in the fields of telecommunications and forensics.

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Investigation into the weapon system:

Here we place everything
under a magnifying glass

Whoever wants to know everything about a missile system must make a great effort to find practical, accessible and, above all, reliable information. Moreover, one source is no source, so that means we have to validate, validate and validate again.

F
or the investigation into the weapon system that was used, the well known seven questions need to be answered are: who, what, where, when, which, how and why. In this investigation only the question of when has been established irrefutably: flight MH17 crashed on 17 July 2014. The remaining questions require intensive investigation, according to Gerrit Thiry (team leader) and Susanne Huiberts (operational specialist) of the National Criminal Investigation Service.

The most significant complication: the crime scene is located in a war zone. For the forensic investigation the police investigators are forced to limit themselves to only the material that was brought back from Ukraine to the Netherlands: debris, soil samples and other materials.

The bar is set much higher

The Dutch Safety Board (OVV) concluded in October 2015 that the aircraft had crashed due to the impact with a Buk missile, which would suggest that the type of weapon has been clearly established. For the criminal investigation, the evidential standard is set much higher than for the OVV. The hearing of the criminal case in court requires that all sources used need to be publically accessible. For that reason, the disclosure and assessment of these sources requires extra attention within this investigation.

Everything we investigate is a point of discussion, says Thiry, we have nothing of which we know for sure whether it is true and genuine. After all, we are dealing with a conflict involving several parties. These parties may have an interest in manipulating or contaminating material. Therefore, we continuously ask ourselves what could be the interest of a source to distribute certain information.

For instance, the team investigates the reliability of a source and verifies if self-appointed experts are indeed experts, rather than amateurs. That is why several experts have been heard. When different sources point in the same direction, investigators can take a step forward. These sources are, for example, sources from industry, several states and open sources on the internet.

Everywhere we carry out a number of checks, says Thiry, furthermore, it is also a matter of exclusion: finding out what it surely could not have been. At the end of the day, despite all these limitations, we manage to find our way. If you cant do it one way, you have to find an alternative.
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The Venturi is located at the bottom side of the Buk missile and emits the gases from the propellant, similar to the exhaust of a car. This Venturi was found at the crash site in Ukraine.

Intentional or not?

An important question for the criminal investigation is whether a missile can be launched unintentionally. Did anyone accidentally push a button which caused the missile to be launched? Or can this only be done by means of a conscious act? And how exactly does the weapon system select its target?

For this reason, the investigators must know as accurately as possible how the weapons system functions and how to operate it. But where can you get a Buk missile that can be examined thoroughly? And how do you lay your hands on a user manual with a step by step explanation for the untrained criminal investigator?

A difficult task, Thiry observes, ever since the seventies, missiles have been manufactured for war purposes and have been exported to numerous countries. These were the hey-days of the Cold War. Specific technical details are strictly confidential.
In addition, the corresponding manuals are not freely available, adds Huiberts, its completely different from, lets say, putting a cupboard together for which you can find an endless number of manuals on the internet, cut down to the wishes of the handyman.

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A Buk missile reference model is examined and fully dismantled. The parts are compared with fragments found at the crash site.
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Parts of the Buk missile (reference model) used for comparison with fragments found at the crash site.
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Paint samples are taken from a Buk missile (reference model) and analysed in the laboratory.
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The warhead of the Buk missile (reference model) is being dismantled. This is the part that contains the explosive.

Jargon

Sometimes, limited information can be found on the internet, as part of an article, for example. But then you still do not understand what it means, because it is a very specific professional field, states Huiberts, on the other hand it is not enough either to find interpreters to translate these texts. First they need to get familiar with the jargon, learn to understand the abbreviations and decipher everything step by step. This takes a lot of time and energy.

Whats more, the investigators need very specific information. The end user only wants it to work and is not interested in knowing exactly how it works, whereas we tend to look at some of these issues through a magnifying glass.

No second chance

As to its extent and also because of its political weight, this investigation is unequalled. That puts a heavy responsibility on our shoulders, because we will not get a second chance when we screw up, says Thiry. The last thing we want is that we make a procedural mistake. For the purpose of a court case we need to be able to prove everything twice over.

Everything here lies under a magnifying glass, Huiberts affirms, now we are more focussed than ever. Our profession is aimed at finding the truth, just like in other cases. But this case is unique, if only because the crime scene is not exactly located in our back yard.

Fortunately, progress has been made in the investigation. Huiberts asserts that we are writing history as we speak and I do realise that everything that we lay our hands on is important for the history of the future.

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Joint Investigation Team

Working together in the JIT
How do you record an interrogation? Which requirements should a file meet? These are all questions which are dealt with in the Joint Investigation Team (JIT).

In the JIT, police and judicial authorities of five countries - under the leadership of the Netherlands work together in the investigation. Their purpose is to gather the best possible evidence that will be upheld in every court, in any country. The following film gives an impression of this cooperation.

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Legal Assistance

Requests for Legal Assistance are a legal necessity

International cooperation is a must for investigations into transnational crime. This can be done in various ways. Two of those play an important role in the international investigation into the shooting down of flight MH17: a Joint Investigation Team and International Requests for Legal Assistance.

Alot has already been published about the first form of international cooperation, the Joint Investigation Team (JIT). The second form of international cooperation, by means of international requests for legal assistance, is a lesser known instrument, but no less an important one.

Unlike journalists, police officers are not allowed to talk to people in another country without the authorisation of that country, let alone subject them to an official interrogation. This applies to all investigation activities. The jurisdiction of the Dutch police stops at the border.

Treaties

Requests for legal assistance are required in order to conduct inquiries in other countries. An international request for legal assistance is an official request to another country to obtain information or request other forms of assistance within the scope of the investigation. The basis for such requests for legal assistance always lies in previously concluded Treaties. This request is legally required to be able to use the information in criminal proceedings of the requesting country.

General examples of legal assistance are:

seizure of objects;
request to conduct a (house) search;
request to interrogate a suspect or to interview a witness (by the police or the examining judge);
request to provide information regarding a telephone number;
request for interception of a telephone number;
request to take DNA material for analysis or to compare available DNA profiles in another country;
request for the provision of information (e.g. official reports of other documents).

Requests to eighteen countries

Depending on the size and scope of a request, the execution of requests for legal assistance can take longer than expected. This can depend on whether this information is already available in that country, or if the request concerns information that still needs to be obtained. Another important issue is whether or not a judicial examination is still required in the country to which the request was addressed. This depends on the contents of the request and the legal regulations in the country concerned.

Requests for legal assistance have been sent by the Netherlands to eighteen countries. Immediately after
17 July 2014, all countries with victims were requested to provide assistance and information in the broadest sense. Furthermore, requests were made to obtain internet data, to interview journalists who have been on the site and to take evidence from experts in relation to weapon systems.


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