By- Greeshma Joy
The Foreign Minister of Netherlands, Stef Blok, announced on Friday that the Dutch government is taking Russia to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) for its alleged role in shooting down the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine in 2014, killing nearly 300 people. The Foreign Minister said that achieving justice for 298 victims of the downing of MH17 will remain the government’s highest priority.
The Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, also called MH17, was a passenger flight scheduled from Amsterdam in the Netherlands to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. On 17 July 2014, while flying over eastern Ukraine, it was shot down, killing all 283 passengers and 15 crew. The shoot-down occurred in the War in Donbas during the battle in Shakhtarsk Raion. MH17 crash led to the death of citizens from 10 different countries- 193 Dutch, 43 Malaysians (including 15 crew), 27 Australians, 12 Indonesians, 10 Britons, 4 Germans, 4 Belgians, 3 Filipinos, 1 Canadian and 1 New Zealander.
The lawsuit would be a rare example of one state taking another to the ECHR, with just 24 such cases since 1953, where Russia is involved in ten of those inter-state cases.
The Dutch move intends to support individual cases being brought to the European court by relatives of some of the people killed when a Buk surface-to-air missile fired from territory controlled by pro-Moscow Ukrainian rebels blew the MH17 flight out of the sky in 2014. Dutch-led investigators say they have proof that Russia owns the Buk missile system that shot down MH17.
Late last year, the Dutch prosecutors asked Russia to arrest a Ukrainian suspect alleged to have run rebel air defences close to the missile firing site. According to prosecutors, Russia instead of arresting him deliberately allowed him to travel to eastern Ukraine. The Prosecutors have charged four people with the offence. They are Igor Girkin, Sergei Dubinsky and Oleg Pulatov, who are Russians and Leonid Kharchenko, a Ukrainian.
Both Netherlands and Australia have previously said that they possess evidence holding Russia responsible for shooting down the plane.
Russia has not, so far, made any official comments on the latest Dutch move in the MH17 crash matter. Earlier, Russia had denied its involvement and proposed alternative theories including that a Ukrainian fighter plane or a Ukrainian BUK missile might have downed the MH17. Before the ECHR, Moscow had also denied responsibility for the disaster. Konstantin Kosachev, Head of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the Upper House of Russia”s Parliament, said that the Dutch’s move is a strange initiative as the investigation is not over yet and there are no court verdicts on the national level. The Foreign Ministry spokeswoman of Russia, Maria Zakharova said that Russia sees the Dutch move in MH17 disaster as another blow to Russian-Dutch relations.
Simultaneously, the Dutch foreign ministry stressed the importance to continue the meetings with Russia on state responsibility matters. The purpose of these meetings is to find a justified solution to the victims for the enormous suffering and damage caused by the MH17 disaster.