Netherlands, Australia launch new case against Russia over MH17

The Dutch and Australian governments take Russia before the UN’s International Civil Aviation Organization.

The Netherlands and Australia have initiated a new legal proceeding against Russia for the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 eight years ago as it flew over eastern Ukraine.

The Netherlands and Australia announced on Monday they are taking Russia before the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), a UN agency.

MH17 was shot down by a Buk anti-aircraft missile over eastern Ukraine’s rebel-held territory in July 2014. All 298 people on board were killed, most of them from the Netherlands. Also among the dead were 38 residents and citizens of Australia.

According to international investigations, the Buk missile came from Russia. Moscow has repeatedly denied any involvement.

The Dutch government says the ICAO should make its own determination that Russia is responsible – and therefore liable. Such a finding would open the way to claims for damages.

“We know that MH17 was shot out of the air with a Buk from the Russian army,” Dutch foreign minister Wopke Hoekstra told the ANP news agency.

Specifically, the Netherlands said, Russia “violated the Chicago Treaty on safe civil air transport guarantees by unlawfully using a weapon against a civilian aircraft”.

The Dutch government said the initiation of the proceeding has nothing to do with the current Ukraine war and that the step was taken after long preparation.

Hoekstra stressed that the Dutch government would continue to do all it can to hold Russia responsible.

“The deaths of 298 civilians, including 196 Dutch citizens, cannot remain without consequences,” he said. “The current events in Ukraine underscore the crucial importance of that.”

The Australian government said in a statement that “Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified invasion of Ukraine and the escalation of its aggression underscores the need to continue our enduring efforts to hold Russia to account for its blatant violation of international law and the UN Charter, including threats to Ukraine’s sovereignty and airspace”.

Previous cases

So far, two cases are under way in connection with the MH17 disaster.

A criminal court near Amsterdam is conducting a trial against four Russian-backed separatists from the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic accused of the murder of 298 people. None of the defendants – three Russians and a Ukrainian – is present.

The Netherlands also filed a case against Russia before the European Court of Human Rights.

Malaysia Airlines Flight
Ukrainian emergency workers carry a victim’s body in a body bag as pro-Russian fighters stand guard at the crash site of MH17 near the village of Hrabove, eastern Ukraine [File: Evgeniy Maloletka/AP]

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