3 years on, families honor loved ones lost on downed MH17
VIJFHUIZEN, Netherlands (AP) — The father of two siblings killed when Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down over Ukraine three years ago said Monday that relatives of the 298 people killed would not rest until those responsible face justice.
At an emotional ceremony marking three years since MH17 was shot down, Evert van Zijtveld said a group representing victims' families "shall not give up and shall not be silenced until those who are responsible have been brought to justice."
As Dutch King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima along with some 2,000 friends and relatives of victims gathered at a new memorial, Van Zijtveld said the loss of his 19-year-old daughter Frederique and 18-year-old son Robert-Jan "left a hole in our hearts."
The commemoration came as international investigators continue their painstaking probe aimed at prosecuting those responsible for shooting down Flight 17 and killing all the passengers and crew.
The Boeing 777 was destroyed by a Buk missile on July 17, 2014, over conflict-torn eastern Ukraine. The international criminal probe has concluded that the missile was fired from rebel-controlled territory by a mobile launcher trucked in from Russia. Russia has denied any involvement, and denounced the conclusions as politically biased.
The U.S. has urged other countries to cooperate in the investigation.
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said that Washington also welcomed a recent decision "to grant jurisdiction to the Dutch courts for the prosecution of those responsible for this tragedy.
"We have full confidence in the ability of the Dutch criminal justice system to conduct a prosecution that is comprehensive, objective and just," she said.
Investigators last year said they had pinpointed 100 people they want to speak to who are believed to have been involved in transporting the Buk missile launcher or its use.
Nations involved in the probe have agreed to prosecute any suspects in the Netherlands, home to nearly 200 of the victims.
The European Union foreign affairs chief, Federica Mogherini, called for international cooperation in the hunt for the perpetrators.
"To ensure that those responsible for the downing of MH17 are held accountable and brought to justice, the criminal investigation needs the continuing support of the international community," Mogherini said in a statement. "We expect all the States that are in a position to assist the investigation and prosecution of those responsible to do so, as demanded by United Nations Security Council Resolution 2166."
After a ceremony at which relatives read out the names of victims, Willem-Alexander and Maxima, joined by 17 local children, each holding a single sunflower, were first to inspect the new monument.
The monument, a curved steel wall and an eye-shaped sculpture engraved with the victims' names, stands in an amphitheater surrounded by 298 trees - still saplings - planted in the form of a commemorative ribbon. Each tree has a plaque bearing the name of a victim.
The monument is close to Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport, from which MH17 departed on its way to Kuala Lumpur. In the silence preceding the commemoration planes could be seen and heard flying to and from the airport.
Last week, more than 90 family members attended a memorial in Malaysia for victims and a briefing on the ongoing probe. The flight was shot down while on its way from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.
Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai told reporters after the event, which was closed to the media, that the investigation was "very detailed and we are quite convinced that we will be able to find the culprits."
In Ukraine, President Petro Poroshenko said his country is mourning the victims and said he believes the perpetrators of the attack will be brought to justice.
"We have faith in the objectivity and impartiality of the Dutch justice and that masterminds behind this crime will be inevitably brought to justice," Poroshenko said in a Twitter post Monday.
Nataliya Vasilyeva in Moscow and Eileen Ng in Kuala Lumpur contributed.