MH17 crash: Netherlands and Australia launch new case against Russia

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By Euronews  with AP, AFP
The families of the victims have long sought justice following the 2014 plane crash.
The families of the victims have long sought justice following the 2014 plane crash.   -  Copyright  AP Photo/Peter Dejong, File

The Dutch and Australian governments have launched new legal action against Russia over the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17.

The case at the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) will seek to hold Moscow legally responsible for its alleged role in the crash.

An international investigation concluded that MH17 was shot down by separatist rebels over eastern Ukraine on 17 July 2014 while flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. All 298 passengers and crew on board were killed.

Investigators found that the aircraft was hit by a Buk missile system that had been driven into Ukraine from a Russian military base. Moscow has always denied involvement.

The Dutch government said the timing of the case isn’t connected to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine but did refer to the ongoing war in its announcement.

Foreign Affairs Minister Wopke Hoekstra stressed the Dutch government would continue to do all it can to hold Russia responsible for the MH17 downing.

“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.”

Among the victims of the 2014 crash were 196 Dutch nationals and 38 residents of Australia.

“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," the Australian government said in a statement.

The new ICAO case follows Russia’s decision to walk away in October 2020 from negotiations with the Netherlands and Australia over state responsibility for the flight’s downing.

Dutch Infrastructure Minister Mark Harbers said the latest legal action is aimed at securing international recognition “that Russia is responsible for the MH17 disaster. Next of kin have a right to that.”

The legal action comes amid an ongoing murder trial in the Netherlands in absentia of three Russians and a Ukrainian for their alleged roles. Verdicts are expected late this year.

Prosecutors have sought life sentences for the suspects. Three of the suspects have boycotted the trial, one is represented by a Dutch legal team, which insists he is innocent.