Legal Assistance

Requests for Legal Assistance are a legal necessity

International cooperation is a must for investigations into transnational crime. This can be done in various ways. Two of those play an important role in the international investigation into the shooting down of flight MH17: a Joint Investigation Team and International Requests for Legal Assistance.

‚ÄčA lot has already been published about the first form of international cooperation, the Joint Investigation Team (JIT). The second form of international cooperation, by means of international requests for legal assistance, is a lesser known instrument, but no less an important one.

 

Unlike journalists, police officers are not allowed to talk to people in another country without the authorisation of that country, let alone subject them to an official interrogation. This applies to all investigation activities. The jurisdiction of the Dutch police stops at the border.

 

Treaties

Requests for legal assistance are required in order to conduct inquiries in other countries. An international request for legal assistance is an official request to another country to obtain information or request other forms of assistance within the scope of the investigation. The basis for such requests for legal assistance always lies in previously concluded Treaties. This request is legally required to be able to use the information in criminal proceedings of the requesting country.

 

General examples of legal assistance are:

  • seizure of objects;
  • request to conduct a (house) search;
  • request to interrogate a suspect or to interview a witness (by the police or the examining judge);
  • request to provide information regarding a telephone number;
  • request for interception of a telephone number;
  • request to take DNA material for analysis or to compare available DNA profiles in another country;
  • request for the provision of information (e.g. official reports of other documents).

 

Requests to eighteen countries

Depending on the size and scope of a request, the execution of requests for legal assistance can take longer than expected. This can depend on whether this information is already available in that country, or if the request concerns information that still needs to be obtained. Another important issue is whether or not a judicial examination is still required in the country to which the request was addressed. This depends on the contents of the request and the legal regulations in the country concerned.

 

Requests for legal assistance have been sent by the Netherlands to eighteen countries. Immediately after
17 July 2014, all countries with victims were requested to provide assistance and information in the broadest sense. Furthermore, requests were made to obtain internet data, to interview journalists who have been on the site and to take evidence from experts in relation to weapon systems.

June 2016