Hearses

Lots of hearses waiting at Eindhoven airforce base to take the first coffins to Hilversum. That is a distance of about 90 km (55 miles).

This sober emphasis cries it out.

“These were PEOPLE!”

Imagine all those hearses. I think the Dutch are working very hard to restore dignity for the casualties, show them respect. It also indicates to me how deeply hurt and furious the Dutch are about everything that has happened, and how determined.

Don’t expect aggression, however. That is not the kind of nation we are, never have been and never will be.

That is not to say that we haven’t made mistakes (Sbrenica, Indonesia), but it refers to why the country tends to serve as an ethical and moral guide to the rest of the world. Today I am proud to be Dutch, and sad for my compatriates (and yes, I always spell it that way, to indicate that I am not talking about patriottism but about sharing).

MH17: Mourning and repatriating the casualties

It looks like the (non-Dutch) international media and public don’t always have a good overview of what is actually happening with the casualties of MH17.

Recovery is underway, but many people don’t appear to know that yet. Dutchman Jan Tuinder is in charge of coordination.

Two transport planes carrying the first remains – in coffins – will land at the Netherlands’ Eindhoven airforce base tomorrow.

Not in Amsterdam, as the BBC reported erroneously. These are military/airforce planes, not Dutch civilian aircraft. Amsterdam Schiphol airport is a civilian airport.

Eindhoven also has a civilian airport, but the planes will be landing at Eindhoven’s airforce base (where the Dutch airforce’s transport planes are based).

Dutch airspace will be closed for 13 minutes.

From Eindhoven, the remains will be taken (convoy, highways temporarily closed to other traffic) to a Dutch military base in Hilversum, at about 30 km to the southeast from Amsterdam, where identification will take place. It is best suited, as it is large enough and has a well equipped (military) medical training facility on the site.

After tomorrow, Dutch planes and one Australian plane (Boeing C17, airforce) will keep transporting remains to the Netherlands. At least one of the Dutch planes is a Hercules C130.

Dutch flagThe Netherlands has announced that tomorrow will be a national day of mourning (the first one since 1962, and the second one ever), with a minute of silence and a ceremony around 4PM (16:00) (3PM UK time) when the planes with the first remains are expected to land in Eindhoven, greeted by a trumpet salute.

The Netherlands – a tiny country – lost nearly 200 of its citizens in the disaster.

The day of mourning includes a call to sound all church bells in the country at 15:55 Dutch time and the flags will be at half-mast tomorrow. Shops will be open.

Three investigations are being carried out by the Dutch:
- forensics (identification);
- cause (headed by the Netherlands, assisted by Malaysian and Ukrainian investigators, among others);
- criminal (as mentioned before).

Reed Foster, a British defence specialist, has said that the “tampering” reported here and there is not expected to hamper identification of the cause. He also discussed impact patterns that appear to be visible in remnants of the plane. That interview, in English, starts at 11:56 here. (Newsweek has more or less the same information.) Don’t forget to miss the fragment that starts at 20:59, showing the Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs or better yet, watch his entire speech (six and a half minutes) at the UN Security Council: here.

MH17: Black boxes to the UK

Dutch media report that Malaysia has agreed to give the black boxes to the Netherlands, which in turn has asked the UK to conduct the investigation of the boxes. The UK has agreed.

CNN and Reuters have this news too, Reuters referring to Cameron in the UK as well as to a Malaysian minister.

This afternoon in Southsea, at close to 2 pm UK time (13:53), I saw six low-flying helis, followed by one low-flying plane that looked like a fighter jet to me. I wondered what was going on.

Next came another low-flying plane which returned and started doing some acrobatics, which initially made me think it was all related to an airshow.

Possibly, one of the helis returned after that as well. (A flypast?)

A heli in the air is not unusual at all here, but two flying together, then followed by four more on their own, to be followed by something that looks like a fighter jet, and all flying low, that is a bit unusual.

There does not seem to be an airshow going on anywhere right now. The big Farnborough airshow finished a few days ago. The black boxes are also going to Farnborough (which is nearby, in the same county as Southsea).

The “acrobatics” I saw could well have been a salute. The plane flew up high, then dove to the ground and levelled off as if to say “I am escorting you to heaven as far as I can go, but I have to return to earth.”

Did I witness the black boxes being flown in or was this something else altogether?

According to Reuters, an Belgian Air Force jet flew to Kiev “this afternoon” and would be taking the boxes to the UK “this evening”.

It takes a regular jet about 3 hours to fly the distance. The indication “this evening” is very vague within an international context, but the time difference between Kiev and the UK is only 2 hours.

As usual, I forgot to take pictures, but I consider that a good thing.

—-

What I witnessed was something else, related to the HMS Illustrious. The salutes were for this ship, a helicopter carrier. I was too far from the shore at the time to be able to see the carrier.

The flypasts were by Apache, Lynx, Merlin, Sea King and Chinook helicopters as well as a hawk jet and a fighter plane from the Second World War.

—-
This BBC article explains the background of why the black boxes are going to Farnborough. It is one of the two places in Europe that has the capability to investigate them. It’s as simple as that.

Criminal investigation of MH17 crash

Tulips for the casualtiesThe Netherlands’ Public Prosecution Service (Openbaar Ministerie, or “Public Ministry”) has launched an official investigation of the crash of MH17, on the basis of suspicion of war crimes, murder and intentional shooting down of a civil airplane.

The country lost nearly 200 people who were aboard the Malaysian Airlines flight.

Public prosecutor Thijs Berger of the division of international crimes has been in Kiev since Saturday.

In 2003, the Netherlands International Crimes Act came into force, which enables the Dutch to prosecute anyone (also in other countries) who has committed a war crime against any Dutch national.

A second possibility is that Ukraine asks the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague to prosecute suspects. In April of this year, Ukraine requested the ICC to investigate possible war crimes committed during the presidency of Viktor Yanukovych in the period from 21 November 2013 to 22 February 2014. The Netherlands may be able to get the ICC to extend this investigation up to and including 17 July 2014, when MH17 crashed.

Yesterday, the Netherlands took charge of the international coordination surrounding the disaster. Recovering and repatriating the remains of the deceased takes priority.

Source: Dutch daily newspaper NRC.

(The Netherlands has a separate Department of Justice and Police as well.)

Bar pro bono unit, legal assistance charity

The unfairness and injustice to which so many Britons are subjected often feels like someone is spitting in my face.

court of lawA few minutes ago, I was composing a letter to someone and found myself explaining something, and then found myself wanting to dive into the issue. It made me realise that there is probably a need in the UK for an organisation of smart volunteers – a bit like the Innocence project in the US – that carries out research and investigations for various cases that need more support but are hampered by a lack of funds.

So I did a web search. First I found an organisation that often holds marches in the UK and is generally shunned. Then I found the Bar Pro Bono Unit. It is a charity which helps to find pro bono (free) legal assistance from volunteer barristers.

I also found the National Pro Bono Centre, with links to additional organisations.

The UK has its own Innocence Project. It was started in 2004.

Here in Portsmouth, the university’s law school carries out various pro bono activities.

Human rights curtailed even further in the UK?

Not if the LibDems can help it, they say. The Independent has the story: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/lib-dems-vow-to-block-headbanger-tory-plans-to-limit-power-of-the-european-court-of-human-rights-if-coalition-continues-after-next-election-9613415.html

Britain, firmly stuck in the dark ages in so many regards, cannot afford this kind of setback. Don’t let any political party push back Britain even further.