MH17 downing: Push for criminal trial

The wreckages of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 near the town of Shaktarsk, Ukraine.
The wreckages of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 near the town of Shaktarsk, Ukraine.PHOTO: AFP

Malaysian, Dutch govts want UN-backed tribunal to prosecute those responsible

UNITED NATIONS • Both the Malaysian and the Dutch governments have called for a UN-backed tribunal to try those responsible for the downing of a Malaysia Airlines flight over Ukraine.

Malaysia told the Security Council that it plans to present a draft resolution soon on creating a UN-backed tribunal, while the Dutch are seeking UN support to set up such a tribunal.

All 298 passengers and crew members on board Flight MH17 - the majority of whom were Dutch nationals - died when the plane was shot down on July 17 last year.

Malaysian Ambassador RamlanIbrahim said on Thursday that the draft resolution and the draft statute of the proposed international criminal tribunal will be circulated to the 15 council members next week, with a vote possibly taking place this month.

While Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said yesterday that a UN tribunal would give "the best guarantee of cooperation from all countries", Russia has already baulked at the idea .

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennadiy Gatilov said the proposal was "not timely and counterproductive", adding that investigations should be completed before further steps are taken.

After last year's tragedy, suspicions immediately turned to pro-Russian rebels in east Ukraine who may have used a surface-to-air missile supplied by Russia to shoot down the plane. Russia has rejected the accusations that it had supplied the separatists with anti-aircraft missile systems.

Spurred by a global outcry, the United Nations Security Council last year adopted a resolution demanding that the perpetrators be brought to justice.

Malaysia is working with Australia, Belgium, the Netherlands and Ukraine - all members of the Joint Investigation Team - on setting up the international tribunal.

The Malaysian ambassador told the council that a UN court would "provide the highest degree of legitimacy for the trial and prosecution mechanism for MH17 to ensure that the perpetrators are brought to justice".

Russia did not raise objections after Malaysia presented its proposal to the council meeting, according to diplomats.

The resolution would be drafted under Chapter 7 of the UN charter, which means that the tribunal's efforts to reach prosecution could be enforced by sanctions. However, Russia is a veto-wielding power on the council, along with France, Britain, China and the United States, and therefore has the option of blocking the proposal if it is put to a vote.

New Zealand's UN Ambassador Gerard van Bohemen, who is president of the UN Security Council for July, told reporters that he expects the issue to be the subject of quite intensive consultations in the coming months.

The Boeing 777 passenger jet was en route to Kuala Lumpur from Amsterdam when it was shot down during fierce 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 04, 2015, with the headline 'MH17 downing: Push for criminal trial'. Print Edition | Subscribe