People responsible for MH17 ‘confirmed’ by 2017: Australia

A file photo from 2014 showing armed rebel soldiers passing a big piece of debris at the main crash site of the Boeing 777 Malaysia Airlines flight MH17.
A file photo from 2014 showing armed rebel soldiers passing a big piece of debris at the main crash site of the Boeing 777 Malaysia Airlines flight MH17. PHOTO: EPA

SYDNEY  (AFP) – The names of people being investigated for playing “an active role” in the downing of flight MH17 will be confirmed by early 2017, Australia’s foreign minister said Sunday (Oct 2) as she raised the prospect of a Lockerbie-style prosecution.

Australia is part of the Dutch-led criminal inquiry into the crash of the Malaysia Airlines jet in conflict-torn eastern Ukraine in July 2014, which killed all 298 people on board including 38 Australian citizens and residents.

The initial findings released earlier this week concluded the Boeing 777 aircraft was shot down by a missile transported from Russia.

The investigation also “identified approximately 100 people” believed to have had an “active role” in transporting the missile system.

“I expect that by the end of the year, maybe early next year, the list of those that we believe should be held accountable will be confirmed and then there must be a prosecution,” Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

“At this point we’re calling on Russia to cooperate, to ensure that it provides all assistance possible to the joint investigation team so that those responsible are held to account.” 

Bishop said there were several options available if Russia vetoed the investigators’ push for support from the UN Security Council, including a tribunal set up by the international community, a “Lockerbie-style prosecution”, or a domestic prosecution in the Netherlands.

An international tribunal involving a special Scottish court sitting in the Netherlands was set up to look into the explosion of Pan Am flight 103 over the Scottish village of Lockerbie in 1988.

Libyan Abdelbaset Ali Mohmet al-Megrahi was found guilty in 2001 – the only person ever convicted of the bombing. He maintained his innocence until his death in 2012.

“I think a domestic-style tribunal would possibly be easier to establish but you’d have to make sure that it had all the necessary powers,” Bishop said, adding she had been in talks with foreign ministers of the nations involved in the investigation, which include Belgium, Malaysia and Ukraine.

“For example, extradition to be able to absolutely hold those responsible for this atrocity to account.” Canberra has long been vocal about its desire to find those who committed the atrocity.

Former PM Tony Abbott vowed to “shirtfront” – an Australian Rules football term in which a player charges an opponent – Russian President Vladimir Putin over the crash.