I was pretty strong in criticism of Dutch journalist Michel Spekkers for taking parts from the MH17 site, despite Spekkers being a colleague, and friend. However, as I go to write this, one Jeroen Akkermans has been tweeting, criticising Russia for their reaction, in support of Spekkers, and his colleague, Beck.
The same Akkermans (pictured) who is, in no small part, responsible for the situation we have today, which has unfolded into quite the mess, with Dutch police confiscating not only MH17 items from Spekkers and Beck, but also all their equipment, memory cards, phones the whole kit and caboodle.
When Akkermans waltzed off in November 2014 with parts of what was later claimed, by an unofficial investigation, to be a BUK rocket, he walked back to a hero’s reception in the Netherlands, and western media. Hailed across the world as the ‘man who solved MH17’, no one really stopped to ask some key questions –
- Why hadn’t he notified the investigation of his findings, before taking them?
- When did it become ok for journalists to take it upon themselves to remove parts from crash sites, and submit them to their own investigations?
- These ‘magic’ ‘BUK’ parts, that Akkermans ‘chanced up’, unseen by the hundreds of investigators, and journalists (including myself) who’d spent extensive time on the site before that?
Fast forward to January of 2017, and Dutch freelance journalists Michel Spekkers, and Stefan Beck visit Donbass for a week of reportage, which includes Spekkers visiting the MH17 site. There, he removed parts, including likely human remains, put them in a bag, even did a survey on Twitter about what he should do with them (for which he later apologised), and took them back to the Netherlands.
Here, Spekkers explains his actions, in his own words –
When I arrived in the area I found, to my surprise, recognisable fragments of the MH17 at various places. After a somewhat longer consideration I decided to take a selection of pieces with me. The majority of the pieces involved aluminum and plastic parts. I wanted to take these things with the purpose of research, to transfer them to the authorities and to make a strong point that there are still things to be found after 2.5 years.
Among the parts I found fragments that reminded me strongly of bone remains. Earlier there where skeletal remains discovered, some were found not to be human but animal. I’m not a forensic investigator, but did not ruled out the skeletal remains could be human. I decided to take one part of the skeletal remains for further investigation in The Netherlands. The consideration for me: if it are human remains there, they do not belong there but need to get returned to The Netherlands.
Following his tweets, Spekkers states he was contacted by the MH17 investigation team, and agreed with them to hand over what he had collected, on a voluntary basis. Yet when they returned to Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport on January 7th, Dutch authorities met them and took not only the MH17 items, but, against their will understandably, all their equipment, cameras, memory cards and phones.
A sizeable scandal then erupted in the week, commented on by all from the OSCE, to Russia’s FM spokes, Maria Zakharova. The Dutch journalist union intervented, to assist Spekkers and Becks, with the fate of their materials then deferred to court hearing which took place yesterday. Here is the statement of Stefan Beck on the result of that –
The Judge (Rechter-Commissaris) has decide that Spekkers en Beck should be present at identifying which parts should be relevant to MH17-investigations but gives no guarantees that other material will not be copied. Also, images that were shot at Amsterdam airport showing Michel Spekkers being held, and that can prove our innocence should be deleted by order of the judge.
The Ordination of the judge contains a lot statements we hold untrue. For example, the judge motivates his decision, amongst others, by claiming the investigation team get the cooperation it has asked for. Claiming that the investigation is being conducted in very difficult circumstances. We would like to stress that the area where the MH17 came down is currently rather safe and that earlier statements made by the (Dutch Public Prosecuting Service) OM concerning the danger in the area are nonsense. Also the judges claims that the sources which Spekkers and Beck try to protect are ‘cap drivers and translators.’
In cooperation with our lawyer we have decided to suggest the following compromise:
1. We do not agree with deleting any images made by either of us.
2. We agree on blurring the identity of investigators of the PRIMO. (Investigation into MH17)
3. We agree on sharing the images of the MH17 on the condition that the veto on what ends up at the investigation lies with Michel Spekkers.
Background: Material was previously confiscated in Amsterdam Airport by authorities. After the intervention of the Dutch Journalist Union (NVJ), the authorities were denied use over the material, until a judge (Rechter-Commissaris) would judge otherwise. With today’s Ordination material will be accessible to authorities.
Spekkers – https://twitter.com/spekkers
Beck – https://twitter.com/MES_Beck
My new MH17 video –