Australia and the Netherlands take legal action against Russia over the downing of MH17


Band Kirsty Needham

SYDNEY, March 14 (Reuters)Australia and the Netherlands said they had filed a joint lawsuit against Russia with the International Civil Aviation Organization over the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 eight years ago.

Russia was responsible under international law for the crash of the flight, and the action in the United Nations Aviation Council was a step forward in the fight for justice for 298 victims, including 38 Australians , Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Foreign Minister Marise Payne said in a statement on Monday.

Australia said the incident was a clear breach of a convention to protect civilian aircraft from gunfire.

The Dutch government said in a statement that the UN Security Council had also been informed of the move.

Dutch Foreign Minister Wopke Hoekstra said in the statement: “The death of 298 civilians, including 196 Dutch, cannot and must not remain without consequences.”

“Current events in Ukraine underscore the vital importance of this.”

The joint action under Article 84 of the Convention on International Civil Aviation is separate from a Dutch trial for the murder of four suspects for their individual criminal responsibility.

Australia has said it is seeking full reparations from Russia for the harm caused and the suspension of Russia’s right to vote on the aviation council, which sets the standards for civilian air travel.

“Russia’s unprovoked and unwarranted invasion of Ukraine and its escalation of aggression underscore the need to continue our sustained efforts to hold Russia accountable for its flagrant violation of international law and the Charter of the United Nations, including threats to Ukraine’s sovereignty and airspace,” Morrison and Payne said in the statement.

MH17 was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur on July 17, 2014 when it was hit over rebel-held eastern Ukraine by what international investigators and prosecutors described as a surface-to-air missile of Russian manufacture.

Moscow has consistently denied any involvement and promoted a series of alternative theories, which international investigators have dismissed as unsupported by evidence.

A verdict in the murder trial, involving three Russians and a Ukrainian still at large, is expected later this year. None of the defendants appeared before the Dutch court.

Australia and the Netherlands are reportedly relying on evidence that MH17 was shot down by a Russian surface-to-air missile system transported from Russia to an area in eastern Ukraine under the control of separatists backed by Russia, and was accompanied by a Russian military crew, the statement said.

The missile system was returned to Russia shortly after MH17 was destroyed, he added.

Russia has so far refused to take responsibility for its clear role in this incident,” Payne told reporters in Sydney on Monday.

Australia and the Netherlands had continued negotiations with Russia over the incident in good faith, but Russia unilaterally withdrew from the talks in 2020, she said.

(Reporting by Kirsty Needham; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

((Kirsty.Needham@thomsonreuters.com;))

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