Australia, Netherlands seek legal action against Russia for MH17 disaster in 2014

Missile fired by pro Russian rebels left 298 people dead in 2014
Ameya Paleja
Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200/ER departing Zurich airport.jetlinerimages/iStock

Australia and the Netherlands have now launched legal action against Russia for its role in the downing of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17, The Guardian reported. The announcement was made by Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne and Attorney-General Michaelia Cash on Monday. 

On July 17, 2014, the Malaysian Airlines flight, MH17 flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was shot down in the Hrabove area of Eastern Ukraine. All 298 people on board including 283 passengers and 15 crew members, were killed. Four people were charged with shooting the plane down by a Dutch-led joint investigation team in 2019, BBC had then reported. 

The Russian connection

Three of these suspects were Russian and had links to the Russian military. Investigations also revealed that the missile used to bring down the aircraft was a Russian-make Buk-TELAR, surface to air missile system that belonged to the Russian Federation's 53rd Anti-Aircraft Military Brigade, News 9 reported. 

The system had been transported from Russia on the morning of the incident to an area controlled by Russian-backed separatists.  The firing of the missile could have only been completed by a trained Russian military crew or someone acting directly under their supervision and the system was returned to Russia soon after the incident, the investigation found. 

Australia had joined the investigation as 38 members on the ill-fated aircraft were its citizens. Although Russia had rejected the investigational findings, negotiations between Russia and the Netherlands were ongoing until October 2020, when Russia unilaterally decided to disengage from them. 

The legal action

After failing to get Russia back to the negotiating table, Australia and Netherlands have now approached the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and have argued that Russia is in breach of Article 84 of the Chicago Convention that underpins aviation laws. 

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"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," Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said in a statement. 

Australia and Netherlands are confident that the "overwhelming evidence" of the Russian involvement will help them seek justice but were also willing to withdraw the legal move if Russia returned to the negotiation table, The Guardian reported. 

The move also comes at a time Russia is facing economic sanctions for its invasion of Ukraine that has now gone well over a fortnight. 

This is a developing story and will be shortly updated. 

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