The cost to the Netherlands government of the Flight MH17 disaster

At the government’s request, the Netherlands Court of Audit has assessed in detail the cost to government organisations and institutions of the 2014 downing of Flight MH17 with a Russian Buk missile in eastern Ukraine. It found that the disaster has so far cost the Netherlands government at least €166 million. The assessment report was submitted to the House of Representatives and published on 29 February.

All 298 passengers and crew, including 196 Dutch nationals, lost their lives on 17 July 2014. The assessment, published on 29 February 2024, covers the period from the day of the disaster to 31 December 2022. Costs have also been incurred since 2022 and more are expected to follow. In its report, The cost to the Netherlands government of the MH17 disaster, the Court of Audit refers to a provisional balance of the costs. In August 2023, for instance, the government made advance payments amounting to €16.5 million to next of kin in respect of compensation that a criminal court in the Netherlands ordered the 3 perpetrators to pay in June 2023. Whether they will actually settle the compensation, however, is uncertain. Costs will also be incurred in the years ahead for psychotrauma support for next of kin and for maintenance of the various MH17 memorials in the Netherlands. Furthermore, proceedings brought before the International Civil Aviation Organization in Montreal and the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg will involve government lawyers. The Court of Audit has therefore undertaken to update its cost assessment every year.

Figuur MH17: Total cost to the Netherlands government of flight MH17 disaster: 166 million euros. Cost the disaster: Crisis management 8.6 million, Repatriation 22.6 million, Idendification 9 million. Cost the facts: accident investigation 53.3 million, criminal prosecution and trial 34.1 million. Cost the consequences: other costs 1.6 million, support for next of kin 0.8 million, commemoration 8.1 million, international proceedings and diplomacy 5.7 million.

The government will use the cost assessment in ongoing legal proceedings. The Court did not assess all the costs relating to the Flight MH17 disaster. It does not consider costs incurred by private individuals and businesses. The suffering of the victims’ next of kin cannot even be expressed in monetary terms.

The Prime Minister asked the Court of Audit to carry out the cost assessment in June 2021 in view of its independence in the Netherlands’ constitutional system. The assessment accurately reveals which of the many activities were carried out by which of many government organisations and how much they cost. The assessment report maps out the costs from the initial crisis management and repatriation of victims from southeast Ukraine by the police and marechaussee with the aid of Ministry of Defence aircraft from the Netherlands and Australia in 2014 and 2015. It also reveals the cost of the identification investigation conducted by special police services and the National Forensic Institute. The 298 victims included 196 Dutch nationals and 8 people who were not Dutch nationals but lived in the Netherlands. The assessment also covered the cost of support for the victims’ next of kin, the accident investigation, the criminal case and the involvement of diplomats in international proceedings. The Court of Audit checked the cost statements against the international standards of Supreme Audit Institutions.

Use of the cost assessment

The government will use the cost assessment in proceedings before the International Civil Aviation Organization. The Kingdom of the Netherlands and Australia are holding the Russian Federation responsible there for all costs arising from the downing of Flight MH17. It is not known when a decision will be handed down in the proceedings. The Netherlands is also supporting next of kin in a case brought against the Russian Federation before the European Court of Human Rights. That case is concerned principally with the next of kin’s losses due to the violation of their human rights. 

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