AMSTERDAM Relatives of MH17 crash victims, angered by what they see as Dutch mishandling of inquiries into the disaster, want a special U.N. envoy to launch an international investigation.
A letter sent to Prime Minister Mark Rutte on Friday, a copy of which was seen by Reuters, said Dutch officials had failed to build a case. They asked that inquiries by the Safety Board and prosecution service be handed over to the United Nations.
Rutte should "request the U.N. to appoint a special envoy to take over," said the letter written by Van der Goen Attorneys.
Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was downed on July 17 over eastern Ukraine, killing all 298 passengers and crew, two-thirds of them Dutch. Experts say the most likely cause was a ground-to-air missile fired from territory held by pro-Russian separatists.
The Dutch launched the largest criminal investigation in their history after the crash. This week, trucks are carrying pieces of the plane home, but much of the wreckage still lies in Ukrainian fields.
Dutch investigators, leading a case involving 11 countries, have not concluded how the plane was shot down or identified suspects.
The Netherlands "has completely botched" the fact-finding investigation and the legal framework of the case, said the letter, sent on behalf of 20 relatives from Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and the United States.
Dutch prosecutors have been unable to access the crash site, in a war zone disputed by Ukrainian troops and Russian-backed rebels, or not met international requirements to secure evidence, the letter said.
"Nobody knows who is doing what," said Bob van der Goen, a spokesman for the law firm. "There is no coordination, there is no leadership whatsoever (by) Holland."
Rutte said on Friday the Dutch teams were returning to the Netherlands. "We have done everything we could. In view of the safety situation and the weather, we cannot do anything more right now," he said.
An international inquiry is the only way to identify who shot down the plane and ensure they are brought to court, the letter said.
Van der Goen has represented relatives of victims of a 1992 El Al jetliner crash in Amsterdam, a 2010 Afriqiyah Airways crash in the Libyan capital Tripoli and the 1977 Pan Am-KLM crash in the Canary Islands that left 583 people dead.
Relatives of the Pan Am-KLM crash victims received more than $100,000 each, the highest ever settlement at the time.
(Reporting By Anthony Deutsch; Editing by Tom Heneghan)