MH17 Investigation: a lot remains unclear in radar images from Russia
16 februari 2017 - Landelijk Parket
To date, a lot remains unclear regarding the radar images that were made available by the Russian Federation to the criminal investigation into the downing of flight MH17. This is mainly caused by the unusual and deviating format in which the radar images were provided. Therefore, it is still not possible to establish with certainty if these images are authentic and what these images are exactly showing.
Already in October 2014, the Dutch Public Prosecution Service (OM) sent a first request for legal assistance to the Russian Federation, requesting all information which might be relevant for the investigation. At the end of September 2016, the Russian Federation released new radar images on television. These images were made available to the Dutch OM one month later.
As the OM already stated in September 2016 at the international presentation for the next of kin, the fact that the BUK missile is not visible on the radar images does not mean it was not there.
For the exchange of information air traffic control agencies often make use of the so called ASTERIX format, which has been developed by Eurocontrol. The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) does not oblige the use of this format, but in a manual it does mention the ASTERIX format as a useful standard. The ASTERIX format is internationally accepted and is being used worldwide. Data transmitted in the ASTERIX format can be interpreted and verified for manipulation and mistakes in a reliable way. Publications on websites that are linked to the Russian authorities show that the Russian Federation also uses the ASTERIX format.
The Russian Federation has not provided the radar data using the ASTERIX format. In order to still be able to analyse the images, the Russian authorities had included separate software without a manual.
This software was written in Russian, so first of all it had to be translated. Subsequently, this software had to be tested both for its functionality and its reliability. Translating and getting familiar with the software were both time consuming. Only after that, the data could be analysed.
The transferred data show less than if the material would have been provided according to the ASTERIX format. In the meantime, the OM has hired external expertise.
The OM has informed the judicial authorities of the Russian Federation that an additional request for legal assistance will be sent. It will still take considerable time to analyse the radar images.