Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17

The first anniversary of the destruction of Flight MH17 and loss of all 298 passengers and crew fast approaches. The international safety and criminal investigations continue. The diplomatic community seem to be struggling with delivering some of the promises of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2166. Article 11 of that resolution is clear enough, in that it “Demands that those responsible for this incident be held to account and that all States cooperate fully with efforts to establish accountability.”

Australia, Belgium, Malaysia, Holland and Ukraine have requested an independent UN Tribunal be established to deal with accountability under international law, but Russia apparently thinks that suggestion is counter-productive and untimely. It is not clear why the simple establishment of an independent and impartial UN Tribunal is in any way problematic in itself. In the Pan Am Flight 103 Lockerbie disaster, it took 11 years and considerable international lawyering and diplomacy for Libya to hand over two suspects to a specially convened Tribunal for their criminal prosecution. This was in spite of clear International Law under the 1971 Montreal Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Civil Aviation, that requires States to prosecute suspects, or extradite them to another State for prosecution. The same duties apply here in MH17, with Australia, Belgium, Malaysia, Holland, Ukraine and Russia also being party to the 1971 Montreal Convention.

The Families of MH17 should not be expected to wait a further 10 years for the advancement of their search for justice. A group of international families from MH17 has just launched a civil action in the United States Federal Court in Chicago, Illinois demanding answers from Igor Girkin, former commander in chief of the Donetz People’s Republic, and a named individual under US, EU and Swiss Sanctions. Girkin is a Russian national, believed to be living in Moscow.

Informed sources have stated that the intelligence services of the US and Russia were in possession of 95% of the facts surrounding the destruction of MH17 within days of 17th July 2014. President Obama and President Putin would have been briefed accordingly. Obviously those known facts remain secret at this time. However, international pressure is mounting in support of the families of MH17, whom will not be forgotten or delayed in their search for truth and justice.