Two Russian men and one Ukrainian have been found guilty of murdering 298 people by downing Malayasian Flight MH17 with a surface-to-air missile over Ukraine in 2014.
The Boeing 777-200 was carrying 283 passengers and 15 crew when it was blown out of the sky by a Russian Buk missile, something the Judges in the Hague ruled was a deliberate action.
The three men are:
- Igor Girkin, Military leader of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic. He was convicted of deploying the missile and seeking Russian help.
- Sergei Dubinsky. Dubinsky was found to have ordered and overseen the transport of the Buk missile launcher to the launch site.
- Leonid Kharchenko was also found to have overseen the Buk delivery having acted on Dubinsky’s instructions.
A fourth man, Oleg Pulatov, was acquitted although the judges even though it was clear in their view that he knew about the missile.
Finding the three men guilty in absentia, the judges ordered that they be sentenced to life in prison.
Russia has always denied involvement in the downing of flight MH17 despite clear evidence that they were. They even claimed that the airliner was shot down by a Ukrainian jet fighter with some Russian TV channels going so far as to post a fake picture.
The court also rejected these claims and the international investigation team led by the Dutch found that the disintegration of the plane was caused by the detonation of a Russian-made 9N314M-type warhead carried on the 9M38M1 missile. The missile was launched from the eastern part of Ukraine, occupied by Russian rebels, using a Buk missile system.
All Russian claims have been debunked by evidence and many victims feel that had the world held Russia to account with strong actions that the current illegal war in Ukraine would not be happening.
UK Law firm Stewarts acted for 30 families of passengers who were killed in the tragedy and 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.”