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Netherlands to take Russia to court over MH17 downing

July 10, 2020

By taking the case to the European Court of Human Rights, the Dutch government said it hopes to achieve "truth, justice and accountability" for the 298 victims. The Malaysia Airlines passenger jet was shot down in 2014.

The ruined nosecone of the downed Flight MH17, in storage in the Netherlands. Archive image from 2018.
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/P. Dejong

The Dutch government announced on Friday that it will file a suit against Russia at the European Court of Human Rights over Moscow's alleged role in the 2014 downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 .

The passenger plane, which was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, was shot down over eastern Ukraine in July 2014, killing the 298 people who were on board. The Netherlands was home to nearly two-thirds of the victims.

The Netherlands has held Russia responsible for the crash, although the Kremlin has denied any involvement.

"Achieving justice for 298 victims of the downing of Flight MH17 is and will remain the government's highest priority,'' Foreign Minister Stef Blok said. "By taking this step today ... we are moving closer to this goal."

In a letter sent to the Dutch parliament announcing the move, the government said it hopes to achieve "truth, justice and accountability" for those who died.

The move is intended to back individual cases that have been brought before the court by relatives of 65 of the Dutch victims.

The Dutch lawsuit is a rare example of one country taking another before the European human rights court, with only 24 similar cases since 1953.

Russian lawmaker dubs case 'strange initiative'

The announcement comes amid an ongoing Dutch criminal trial over the case, which resumed in June following delays due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Read more: MH17 trial resumes in the Netherlands after coronavirus delay

Prosecutors have charged three Russians and a Ukrainian for shooting down the plane. The four men are being tried in abstentia, since Russia does not extradite its citizens and the Ukrainian defendant is believed to have acquired a Russian passport. 

The criminal charges were the result of an ongoing investigation into the crash by an international team from the Netherlands, Belgium, Australia, Ukraine and Malaysia.

Seeking 'justice' for victims

According to the investigators' findings, a Buk anti-aircraft missile was fired from territory in eastern Ukraine controlled by pro-Moscow separatist rebels and blew the Boeing 777 out of the sky.

The investigators said they have evidence that the missile that shot down Flight MH17 was brought into Ukraine from a Russian military base and that the mobile launcher used to fire it was later brought back to Russia.

In 2018, the Dutch government found Russia liable for shooting down the plane and is separately pursing Moscow for state responsibility in the crash.

"The government attaches importance to continuing the meetings with Russia on the matter of state responsibility,'' the Dutch Foreign Ministry said in a statement. "The purpose of these meetings is to find a solution that does justice to the enormous suffering and damage caused by the downing of Flight MH17.'"

How Bellingcat investigated MH17 plane crash

rs/msh (Reuters, AFP, AP)