Australia and the Netherlands are taking legal action against Russia over the downing of MH17

FILE PHOTO: A view shows a memorial at the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 plane crash site near Hrabove
FILE PHOTO: A view shows a memorial to the victims of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 plane crash near the village of Hrabove in the Donetsk region, Ukraine, March 9, 2020. REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko

March 14, 2022

By Kirsty Needham

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia and the Netherlands said they had filed joint legal action against Russia at the International Civil Aviation Organization over the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 eight years ago.

Russia is responsible for the crash of the plane under international law and action at the United Nations Air Aviation Council is a step forward in the fight for justice for 298 victims, including 38 Australians, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Foreign Secretary Marise Payne said in a statement on Monday.

Australia said the incident was in clear violation of a convention protecting civilian aircraft from gunfire.

The Dutch government said in a statement that the UN Security Council had also been informed of the move.

Dutch Foreign Minister Wopke Hoekstra said in the statement: “The deaths of 298 civilians, including 196 Dutch nationals, cannot and should not go unnoticed. Current events in Ukraine underscore the critical importance.”

The joint action under Article 84 of the Convention on International Civil Aviation is separate from a Dutch murder trial of four suspects for their individual criminal responsibility.

Australia said it is demanding full redress from Russia for the injuries it caused and the suspension of Russia’s voting rights in the Aviation Council, which sets standards for civil air travel.

While the Montreal-based ICAO has no regulatory powers, it sits at the center of a system of safety standards that works across political barriers but often requires slow consensus.

“Russia’s unprovoked and unwarranted invasion of Ukraine and the escalation of its aggression underscores the need to continue our ongoing efforts to hold Russia accountable for its flagrant violations of international law and the UN Charter, including threats to Ukraine’s sovereignty and airspace ‘ Morrison and Payne said in the statement.

MH17 was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur on July 17, 2014 when it was hit by a Russian-made surface-to-air missile over rebel-held eastern Ukraine, international investigators and prosecutors say.

Moscow has always denied involvement and has put forward a number of alternative theories, which international investigators have dismissed as unsupported by evidence.

A verdict in the murder trial involving three Russians and one Ukrainian who are still at large is expected later this year. None of the defendants have visited the Dutch court.

Australia and the Netherlands would rely on evidence. MH17 was shot down by a Russian surface-to-air missile system, which was being transported by Russia to an area in eastern Ukraine controlled by Russian-backed separatists and escorted by a Russian military crew. it said in the statement.

The missile system was returned to Russia shortly after the MH17 was shot down, it said.

“Russia has so far refused to accept responsibility for its clear role in this incident,” Payne told reporters in Sydney on Monday.

Australia and the Netherlands have held good faith negotiations with Russia over the incident, but Russia unilaterally withdrew from the talks in 2020, she said.

(Reporting by Kirsty Needham; Additional reporting by Toby Sterling and Tim Hepher; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan) Australia and the Netherlands are taking legal action against Russia over the downing of MH17

Bobby Allyn

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