On 17 July 2014, Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 crashed in Donetsk Oblast, Eastern Ukraine. All 298 people on board MH17, which was en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, died. It claimed the lives of 193 Dutch nationals, 43 from Malaysia, and 27 from Australia. Other victims came from a variety of countries including Indonesia, the United Kingdom, Belgium, Germany and the Philippines. From the start, both the investigation into the cause of the crash and the criminal investigation into the downing of Flight MH17 were severely challenged due to the ongoing armed conflict in Eastern Ukraine between pro-Russian separatists, supported by the Russian Federation, and the Ukrainian government. Access to the crime scene was severely hampered by security issues. Dutch foreign minister Blok said attempts to hold Russia responsible for the plane’s downing under international law would be a different, parallel process from the ongoing investigation by prosecutors seeking to establish individual criminal responsibility. But, a Dutch cabinet statement mooted presenting the case to an international court or organisation for their judgment as a “possible” next step.
On 24 May 2018, A Dutch-led international criminal investigation has concluded that the Buk missile that shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 over Ukraine in 2014 came from Russia's 53rd Antiaircraft Missile Brigade. The Joint Investigative Team (JIT), comprising authorities from Australia, Belgium, Malaysia, the Netherlands, and Ukraine, made the announcement at a press conference on May 24 in Utrecht, the Netherlands. The JIT determined in 2016 that MH17 was shot down from separatist-held territory in the Donetsk region by a Buk antiaircraft system provided by the Russian military. The JIT report says the Buk entered Ukraine near Krasnodon and was spirited back into Russia immediately after the airliner was shot down. The findings of the joint investigative team made clear, the Buk missile launcher was brought into sovereign Ukrainian territory from Russia, was fired from territory controlled by Russia and Russia-led forces in eastern Ukraine, and was then returned to Russian territory.” Russia has denied any involvement in the plane’s destruction.
"Australia and the Netherlands have now (May, 24) informed the Russian Federation that we hold it responsible under international law for its role in the bringing down of MH17," said Julie Bishop, Australia's Minister for Foreign Affairs. "Australia and the Netherlands have requested Russia to enter into negotiations to open up a dialogue about its conduct and to seek reparations."
"Holding a country legally responsible is a complex process but what Netherlands and Australia want is for Russia to enter into negotiations with both of them which will ultimately lead to reparations for the victims' families."
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, called on Russia to accept responsibility for the crash and cooperate with international efforts to establish accountability.
Speaking to journalists on Friday, May 25, at UN Headquarters in New York, UN Deputy Spokesperson Farhan Haq said that Secretary-General António Guterres underlined a prior Security Council resolution demanding that “all states cooperate fully with efforts to establish accountability”.
One year after the incident, Malaysia introduced a draft resolution in the UN Security Council on a measure that would have established an international tribunal to prosecute persons responsible for the downing of MH17. The 15-member body, however, failed to adopt the resolution following a Russian veto. While Security Council Resolution 2166 (2014) condemned the downing of MH17 and called for accountability, it remains unclear to date just how that resolution is to be implemented. Whatever legal process is initiated, State cooperation plays a large role in their success.
5. Prosecution before domestic courts on the basis of Article 1 of the 1971 Montreal Convention, as an international crime, and on the basis of a domestic criminal code.
"This white paper aims to show victims and their supporting governments some of the potential pathways for legal accountability. It highlights legal, political and practical hurdles likely to arise, as well as provides some preliminary observations concerning legal strategies. The families of the victims know better than anyone that legal remedies of any kind will never fully compensate them for their losses. At a minimum, they deserve, as does the rest of the flying public, answers as to what happened and accountability for those responsible. By laying out the present applicable law and possible remedies, the authors hope that this paper will help the families and their governments decide which routes to pursue, and which goals to prioritize. As the families have already experienced, the road towards justice in any case involving the downing of civilian aircraft is likely to be long and arduous."
A selection of relevant publications from the Peace Palace Library collection
- Abeyratne, R., "Flight MH17: The Legal and Regulatory Fallout", Air & space law, 39 (2014), No. 6, pp. 329–340.
- Hoon, M. de, "Navigating the Legal Horizon: Lawyering the MH17 Disaster", Utrecht journal of international and European law, 33 (2017), No. 84, pp. 90-119.
- Hoon, M. de, Fraser, J. and McGonigle Leyh, B. (eds.), Legal remedies for downing Flight MH17, [Washington, DC] : Public International Law & Policy Group. [Amsterdam] : VU University Amsterdam, 2016, 106 pp.
- Kaiser, S.A., "Legal Considerations about the Loss of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 in Eastern Ukraine", Air & space law, 40 (2015), No. 2, pp. 107–121.
More titles about Flight MH17 in Peace Palace catalogue.