Trial over MH17 not likely at ICC - Dutch

Amsterdam - The Netherlands or Malaysia are likely to try those responsible for the downing in Ukraine of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, not the International Criminal Court in The Hague, the Dutch said on Wednesday.

Cases are only referred to the world's permanent war crimes court if countries involved are unable or unwilling to prosecute atrocities, Justice Minister Ivo Opstelten wrote in a letter to parliament.

The Dutch are leading an international investigation into the crash and it is unlikely the nations involved "will not be able or willing to lead the investigation and prosecution", Opstelten wrote.

Pro-Russian separatists are widely believed to have used a surface-to-air missile to shoot down the plane on 17 July, killing all 298 passengers and crew.

The Dutch Safety Board, which is leading the inquiry, said this week it had received a large quantity of evidence from sources outside Ukraine and will not need access to the entire crash site, now inaccessible due to fighting.

The Netherlands, which had 195 nationals onboard the flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, has universal jurisdiction for war crimes and can prosecute suspects in other countries.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) - the guardian of the Geneva Conventions setting down the rules of war - has made a confidential legal assessment that Ukraine is in a war, diplomats and officials said this month, opening the door to possible war crimes prosecutions, including over MH17.

Experts trying to recover remains of the victims in Ukraine were again unable to access the crash site on Wednesday due to clashes between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian forces, the head of the Dutch mission said.

The world's legal capital, the Netherlands is the home of several international courts, including the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal. It also hosted the trial by British judges of two Libyan secret service agents over the 1988 bombing of Pam Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland.