Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has stressed the importance of investigators regaining access to the MH17 site. Photo: Andrew MearesFoundation to honour Maslin children
Forty Australian Federal Police are working with their Dutch, Belgian, Malaysian and Ukrainian counterparts to investigate the MH17 disaster, and are expected to report in the first half of next year. And two more Australians from the Transport Safety Bureau are assisting the International Civil Aviation Organisation investigation.
But on the 100-day anniversary of the tragedy, hope is fading that investigators will be able to find any more remains even if they do gain access to the crash site again.
In the days after the tragedy, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said the shooting down of the plane was “not an accident, it was a crime, and criminals should not be allowed to get away with what they have done” with international condemnation of Russia.
Tensions flared again in recent weeks with Mr Abbott promising to “shirt-front” Russian President Vladimir Putin when he comes to Australia for the G20 meeting in Brisbane, a statement that sparked an angry response from Moscow.
Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop last week managed to buttonhole President Putin while in Milan and win a promise of help for investigators access the site before winter sets in.
On the ground however, while there is a ceasefire, there continue to be outbreaks of violence in the vicinity of the site, blocking access.
Ms Bishop has said investigators have already gathered a wealth of evidence but it was still important to get back to the site to retrieve the remains and personal effects of Australian victims.
And quietly, away from the rolling 24-hour news coverage, the bodies of 36 of the 38 Australians killed in the July 17 downing of the Malaysia Airlines plane have now been recovered, with 30 returned to Australia.
The joint investigation team is being led by the Dutch Public Prosecution service with Australia, Belgium and the Ukraine, and Malaysia participating too.
The 40 Australian personnel assisting with the criminal investigation is lower than at the peak deployment of more than 500 Australians to the Ukraine and the Netherlands.
The remains of Australians who died in the tragedy are first brought home to Melbourne in either military aircraft or on a commercial flights – a decision taken by the families – and the government is paying for families who wish to accompany their loved ones home.
A Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade official has been assigned to each of the families, to assist with pastoral care, liaise with them on statements to the media and other matters.
When the remains of victims return to Australia, a ceremony is held with a senior government representative, military personnel and police in attendance.
Assistant Defence Minister Stuart Robert, who deputised as the prime minister’s representative for two repatriation ceremonies, said it had been a “solemn honour”.
“Although born of grief and loss, the ceremonies were punctuated by personal memories, humour and the timeless love offered by family and friends to one another in their absolute time of need,” he said.
While expressing the sorrow of a nation to the families who had lost loved ones had been a difficult task, “a minister should be there to represent the government and the nation at such times of national mourning”.
“The families, in many ways, wanted me to pass on their thanks to the Prime Minister for his personal calls and proactive approach to supporting them,” he said.
The Dutch Safety Board released its preliminary report on September 9. That report concluded, based on the evidence available including from the black box, that the plane had been shot down without saying by whom.
The report found a large number of high-energy objects smashed through flight MH17, causing it to break up in mid-air and crash.
There was no indication of any technical or operational issues with the aircraft or the crew. Those findings were consistent with Australia’s statement that the plane was shot down by a large surface to air missile.
The UN Security Council met and considered the Safety Board’s report on September 19.
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.