The governments of Australia and the Netherlands announced that they have launched a legal case against Russia at the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) seeking to hold Moscow accountable and force Russia to pay compensation for its role in the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 over Ukraine in 2014.
ICAO is a UN agency overseeing safe civil air traffic around the world.
The case announced Monday in The Hague and Canberra is the latest bid to punish Russia for the deadly incident in July 2014, in which a Malaysia Airlines passenger plane flying over Ukrainian territory was shot down, killing almost 300 people on board. The Netherlands and Australia hold Russia responsible for the tragedy and want the UN body to confirm their position.
In 2020, Moscow refused to keep cooperating with the investigation. Australian and Dutch authorities said pressure applied through ICAO was meant to bring Russia back in and accept culpability for the deaths.
“We want it to be internationally recognized and established that Russia is responsible for the disaster with flight MH17,” Dutch Minister of Infrastructure Mark Harbers said.
“The Russian Federation’s refusal to take responsibility for its role in the downing of flight MH17 is unacceptable and the Australian government has always said that it will not exclude any legal options in our pursuit of justice,” Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said.
An international investigation concluded that the Amsterdam-to-Kuala Lumpur flight was shot down from territory held by separatist rebels using a Buk missile system that was driven into Ukraine from a Russian military base and then returned to the base. Moscow vehemently denies its involvement in this act of international terrorism.
A murder trial is currently underway in the Netherlands, where four suspects are facing life sentences for their roles in the crime. They are Russian nationals Igor Girkin, Sergey Dubinsky, and Oleg Pulatov, as well as Ukrainian national Leonid Kharchenko, all of whom were commanders of the Russian-backed armed bandit formations in eastern Ukraine and are tried in absentia. A verdict in the case is expected later this year.
The ICAO could impose all sorts of punishments on Russia, including suspending its voting rights in the organization, Australian Attorney General Michaelia Cash, who spoke alongside Payne, said.
The Dutch government said its complaint was not filed in response to Russia’s ongoing war of aggression in Ukraine, but Foreign Minister Wopke Hoekstra said that Russian invasion of Ukraine “underscores the vital importance” of holding Russia accountable for the MH17 downing.