Aviation

Australia launches legal proceedings against Russia over MH17 downing

Australia and the Netherlands are both launching legal action against the Russian Government for its alleged role in the taking down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 in 2014.

The two governments have cited the need to hold Moscow accountable for its actions following the recent invasion of Ukraine.

The governments began legal proceedings in the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) on Monday according to a statement from Scott Morrison.

ICAO mediates between countries and has the power to condemn or introduce sanctions against a member country that was found to break international laws.

The passenger plane crashed over Ukraine on the path from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur in July 2014, killing all 298 people on board – of which 38 were Australian citizens.

International investigations found that the flight was shot down by a Russian missile that had been transferred into rebel-held eastern Ukraine, however, the Russian government has repeatedly denied any involvement.

The governments of Australia and the Netherlands have formally found Russia responsible since 2018.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne said these proceedings are in addition to a trial held in the Netherlands where Dutch prosecutors demanded life sentences for four suspects.

“This is an important step in the fight for truth, justice and accountability for all of the victims of MH17, including the 38 who called Australia home,” Payne said.

“The ICAO Council is empowered to consider serious breaches of international law.”

Prime Minister Morrison added to Payne’s comments: “The Russian Federation’s refusal to take responsibility for its role in the downing of Flight MH17 is unacceptable and the Australian Government has always said that it will not exclude any legal options in our pursuit of justice.”

The Netherlands has also sued Russia at the European Court of Human Rights.

A Dutch spokesperson also said that the Netherlands has notified the U.N. Security Council of this move.

“The government will continue to do everything in its power to call Russia to account for the downing of Flight MH17 and to uphold the international legal order,” said Dutch Foreign Minister Wopke Hoekstra.

“We cannot and will not allow the death of 298 people, including 196 Dutch nationals, to go unanswered. The current events in Ukraine underscore the vital importance of this.”

Both countries said evidence points at the missile system belonging to the Russian Federation’s 53rd Anti-Aircraft Military Brigade.

They say the missile could have only been shot by a Russian crew accompanying them or someone acting under their control.

While Dutch officials denied the relation between this legal action and Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine, Morrison drew a more direct connection between the two.

“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,” Morrison said.

As the Russian invasion of Ukraine continues, many aspects of international travel have been impacted, including the hiked price of fuel, re-routing of flights, and plane leasing companies asking for Russian planes back.



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