The cost to the Netherlands government of the Flight MH17 disaster

The Court of Audit’s President, Pieter Duisenberg, presents the Court’s report on the costs incurred by the Netherlands government in the aftermath of the Flight MH17 disaster between 2014 and the end of 2022.

The images are etched in our memory. Military cargo planes landing at Eindhoven Airport. Hundreds of casualties carried in coffins under the watchful eye of the King and Queen.

Then, an endless procession of hearses along the A2 motorway on their way to Hilversum, to the Van Oudheusden Barracks.

There, the identification takes place of victims from civil aircraft MH17, which was shot down while flying over Ukraine. All 298 passengers and crew died on 17 July 2014. Among them 196 Dutch nationals and nine people of other nationalities living in our country.

This happened nearly ten years ago. Today, the Netherlands Court of Audit publishes its assessment of the costs incurred by the Dutch government due to the MH17 disaster.

The assessment was requested by the Prime Minister on behalf of the government as part of the Dutch legal proceedings against the Russian Federation.

In this context, I wish to emphasise that the pain of the bereaved cannot be measured by money. This assessment is about the costs incurred by ministries, municipalities and other government organisations, such as the national police the Public Prosecutor and the Dutch Safety Board. It  specifically concerns only costs incurred by Dutch authorities. And not the personal costs of the bereaved, costs incurred by affected companies or by foreign authorities.

We received cost statements from 83 government organisations and assessed them against international audit standards.

The costs incurred between 17 July 2014 and the end of 2022 that the Court of Audit was able to identify amount to 166 million euros. In the case of uncertainties, we did not include an amount.

These 166 million euros include crisis management costs made immediately after the disaster.

Costs for the repatriation of victims and their identification. And the cost of investigations by the national police, the Ministry of Defence, the Dutch Safety Board, and the Public Prosecutor.

This assessment, and  the trial in The Hague, have brought the facts to light.

And of course, costs due to the aftereffects of the disaster. Costs the government makes to care for the bereaved, contributions to commemorations, and various ongoing legal proceedings.

We explicitly refer to this as an interim balance. Some costs will continue after 2022. For example, trauma counselling for the bereaved or maintenance of memorials, for a special documents archive or advances the government recently paid to the bereaved regarding the damages that the court ordered the three offenders to pay.

Meanwhile, there are various ongoing legal proceedings concerning the violation of human rights and the liability of the Russian State for taking down Flight MH17. These costs are also ongoing.

This is why the Court of Audit will provide annual updates of its assessment. So that you, society, politicians and the state as litigant in the proceedings have the correct financial data at your fingertips.