MH17 crash investigators to reveal new findings

MH17 was shot down over separatist-held eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014. PHOTO: AFP

THE HAGUE - International investigators said they will unveil in February the result of a probe into “other parties” involved in downing Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, after three people were found guilty in 2022.

The findings are expected to deal with their research into who actually fired the missile that shot down the plane over eastern Ukraine in 2014, and who originally supplied the Russian-made projectile.

The two Russians and a Ukrainian sentenced to life in absentia for murder by a Dutch court in November were not found to have fired the trigger, but only to have helped bring the missile into Ukraine.

But at a press conference in The Hague on Feb 8, investigators will reveal the “results of the ongoing investigation into other parties involved in the downing of flight MH17“, the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) said.

Relatives of the victims would be informed first, it said.

“In addition to the involvement of the DPR (Donetsk People’s Republic), the JIT also investigated the crew of the Buk-TELAR and those responsible for supplying this Russian weapon system that downed MH17.”

Dutch judges found that Russians Igor Girkin and Sergei Dubinsky and Ukrainian Leonid Kharchenko were members of the separatist DPR, and that the group was controlled by Moscow.

Judges, however, said it was not clear who had actually operated the BUK missile system when the plane was shot down.

All 298 people on board the plane were killed when it was shot down over separatist-held eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014.

Russia has denied any involvement in the shooting down of the plane, or in controlling the separatists.

The JIT comprises members from the Netherlands, Australia, Belgium, Malaysia and Ukraine, the countries worst affected by the crash of the doomed Boeing 777.

European rights judges in Strasbourg separately ruled that most of the complaints lodged by the Netherlands over MH17 were admissible.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) said that cases brought by the Netherlands and Ukraine against Russia over alleged human rights violations in the breakaway Luhansk and Donetsk regions of Ukraine, and the shooting down of Flight MH17, were admissible.

The decision does not rule on the merits of the cases, but it does show the Strasbourg-based court considers Russia can be held liable for rights violations in the separatist regions.

“Among other things, the court found that areas in eastern Ukraine in separatist hands were, from May 11, 2014, and up to at least Jan 26, 2022, under the jurisdiction of the Russian Federation,” the court said in a ruling on Wednesday.

The cases will now move on to the merits stage, expected take another one to two years before a final decision is issued.

The ECHR decision opens the doors to at least three other cases by the Ukrainian state against Russia, as well as thousands of individual cases, which had been put on hold pending the decision on jurisdiction.

“This is a clear signal to Russia,” Dutch Foreign Minister Wopke Hoekstra posted on Twitter, saying the court’s decision to declare the cases admissible was “an important milestone”.

The impact of any ruling will be largely political, as Russia’s Parliament in June voted to end the ECHR’s jurisdiction in the country and has previously ignored ECHR rulings it disagreed with.

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The court says it has jurisdiction in cases already started before Moscow’s withdrawal from the ECHR’s writ, and Russia could be ordered to pay damages, but the court has no way to enforce its rulings.

The court’s finding that Moscow did control pro-Russian forces in Ukraine mirrors a Dutch court ruling last November that Moscow had “overall control” over the forces of the Donetsk People’s Republic in eastern Ukraine from mid-May 2014.

The Netherlands filed its case with the ECHR in 2020, saying the shooting down of Flight MH17 breached the European Convention on Human Rights. AFP, REUTERS

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