On 17 July 2014, a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 was shot down by a Russian BUK missile as it passed over Ukrainian airspace while en route from Amsterdam to Malaysia. Following the disaster, UK law firm Stewarts was instructed by some 30 families of passengers who had perished in the shooting down, including nearly all British families as well as families from South Africa, the Netherlands and Malaysia.
Today, the District Court of the Hague found Sergey Dubinsky, Igor Girkin and Leonid Kharchenko guilty for their role in the shooting down of Flight MH17. All suspects have been tried in absentia. This trial which has led to this decision lasted two and a half years, and followed a technical investigation by a specially formed Joint Investigation Committee which itself lasted nearly four years. The trial offered a unique opportunity for families to address the court on the suffering that was inflicted on them by the perpetrators of the shooting down.
Peter Neenan, Partner in Stewarts’ Aviation team said:
“The judgment released today by the District Court of the Hague marks an important step in the families of the victims of the MH17 disaster’s fight for justice, truth and accountability. It is a long and difficult road, and our clients, and all families of victims, have shown amazing strength and resilience as they continue to seek answers about what happened and why.
“The finding of guilt today is just one part of that fight for justice and truth. Those who actually fired the missile remain unknown. While the BUK missile launcher was traced back to 53rd Anti-Aircraft Brigade in Kursk, Russia, those specific masters who authorised its deployment remain unknown. Nevertheless, critically, the judge said today that the court found that the Russian state had overall control; coordinating the military actions, providing financial support and providing instruction to the separatists.
“In 2018, the governments of the Netherlands and Australia held Russia publicly accountable for the downing of flight MH17. They have sought to diplomatically discuss Russia’s responsibility and they have sought to legally enforce Russia’s responsibility through legal proceedings brought before the International Civil Aviation Organisation.
“There were 10 British nationals on board Flight MH17. As one of the five permanent members of the United Nation’s Security Council, the UK must now use this moment to offer its weight and support to any diplomatic discussions, alongside the governments of the Netherlands and Australia, and bring legal proceedings against Russia before ICAO.
“What comes next for the families will in many ways depend on how the nations of the world, not just the Netherlands and Australia, show their citizens that they truly wish to deliver justice for this atrocity.”
For a comprehensive timeline of events provided by the Netherlands Public Prosecution Service, see here.