Thursday 26 January 2023

European rights court moves forward with MH17 case

Photo: Molly Quell

The European Court of Human Rights ruled on Wednesday that three cases brought against Russia by Ukraine and the Netherlands were partially admissible, including a complaint over the downing of flight MH17.

The Strasbourg-based court ruled it had jurisdiction to decide on three complaints stemming from the conflict in eastern Ukraine since 2014. The Dutch and the Ukrainians want the court to hold Moscow responsible for human rights abuses that happened in the Donbas region, which borders Russia.

The violations include the shooting down of the passenger jet as it passed over the area en route to Kuala Lumpur from Amsterdam. Last year, The Hague District Court convicted three men and acquitted one of supplying the weapon which brought down the Boeing 777, killing all 298 people on board.

‘The court found that the downing of flight MH17 had occurred wholly within the territory in the hands of the separatists,’ the court said in a press release.

The ruling also praised the work done by the Joint Investigative Team, the international organisation headed by the Dutch which looked into the cause of the disaster. The finds ‘provided a great deal of clarity as to the circumstances of the downing of flight MH17,’ the court said.

The Dutch government said it was pleased with the decision and vowed to continue fighting for the victims. ‘Today’s decision is a crucial next step in the case that the Netherlands has filed against Russia,’ foreign affairs minister Wopke Hoekstra tweeted.

Russia was expelled from the Council of Europe, the court’s oversight body, last year after its full-scale invasion of Ukraine. The expulsion also removed the country from the court, although cases filed before its departure will continue.

No one from the Russian Federation was present in court for the reading of the judgment.

The ECHR will now move on to deliberate the case on its merits and a final decision is not expected for months.

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