KL proposes UN tribunal over downing of MH 17

UNITED NATIONS • Malaysia has circulated a draft United Nations resolution on establishing an international tribunal that it said would guarantee an independent trial for those behind the downing of flight MH17 over Ukraine.

It told the Security Council last week it was ready to move ahead with the proposed tribunal despite resistance from Russia, which said the move was premature.

The draft, which was circulated on Wednesday, calls for establishing the tribunal under Chapter 7 of the UN charter, which means that the court's efforts to prosecute those responsible could be enforced by sanctions.

All 298 passengers and crew on board the Malaysia Airlines flight - the majority of them Dutch - died when it was shot down on July 17 last year over eastern Ukraine.

After the tragedy, suspicions turned to pro-Russian separatists in east Ukraine who may have used a surface-to-air missile supplied by Russia to shoot down the plane.

The tribunal would be "an effective guarantee for an independent and impartial accountability process", the draft resolution said.

The council would "establish an international tribunal for the sole purpose of prosecuting persons responsible for crimes connected with the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 on 17 July 2014", the draft text said.

Under the draft, the council would also adopt the statute of the new tribunal modelled after other UN special courts tasked with prosecuting serious crimes.

The tribunal would be "an effective guarantee for an independent and impartial accountability process", the draft resolution said.

The text describes the downing of the plane as "a threat to international peace and security" and added that all states should cooperate fully with the tribunal.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has said the international court is the "best option" for prosecution, but there is also a "back-up plan" should the Russians block it.

Meanwhile, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennadiy Gatilov described the proposal as "counterproductive", and said the investigation of the downing of the airliner should be completed first.

A final report on the Dutch-led investigation is expected in October.

Malaysia is working with Australia, Belgium, the Netherlands and Ukraine - all member countries of the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) - on setting up the tribunal.

Malaysian Ambassador Ramlan Ibrahim told the 15-member council last week that a UN court would "provide the highest degree of legitimacy for the trial".

The Boeing 777 passenger jet was en route to Kuala Lumpur from Amsterdam when it was shot down during some of the worst fighting between Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russian separatists.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 10, 2015, with the headline 'KL proposes UN tribunal over downing of MH 17'. Print Edition | Subscribe