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Malaysia Airlines settles damages over MH17

July 18, 2016

Lawyers representing families of the 196 Dutch victims of flight MH17 said that a majority had reached an agreement with Malaysia Airlines for compensation. The news came on the second anniversary of the fateful crash.

Crash site MH17
Image: Reuters

Malaysia Airlines has struck a settlement deal for damages with most of the families of victims of flight MH17, which was shot down over eastern Ukraine two years ago, according to Dutch national broadcaster NOS.

A surface-to-air missile shot down MH17 on July 17, 2014, over Ukrainian territory, killing all 298 passengers and crew on board. The majority of the passengers were Dutch nationals. The Boeing 777 was on a routine flight between Amsterdam and Kuala Lumpur.

Veeru Mewa, a lawyer representing the Dutch victims of the crash, said that under the Montreal Convention of the International Civil Aviation Organization, the airline had to pay damages of up to about 130,000 euros ($145,000) to victims' families regardless of the debated circumstances of a crash.

James Healy-Pratt, whose London-based law firm represents around 30 families, has told the AFP news agency that a total of 85 percent of the claims against Malaysia Airlines had been settled "on confidential terms." Six claims remain before the Malaysian High Court in Kuala Lumpur, he added.

Reconstruction MH17
An investigation into the incident said that separatist Russian forces downed the jetlinerImage: Reuters/M. Kooren

An international inquiry concluded in October 2015 that the plane had been downed by a Russian-made BUK missile fired from a zone held by pro-Russian separatists. Initial findings of a Dutch-led criminal inquiry in the case are expected to be presented later this year.

Lawsuits have also been filed against separatists and their backers, who have been implicated in the attack. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko had also vowed that "the perpetrators of this tragedy must be punished." Separatist authorities as well as the Russian government, however, deny responsibility for the disaster, saying Ukrainian forces were to blame for the incident.

Flight path MH17

Memorials in Ukraine and the Netherlands

The announcement about the damages came on the second anniversary of the fateful crash, as a vigil was held at the site where MH17 was shot down. Around 60 people, including bereaved family members, gathered at the crash site in the village of Petropavlivka, carrying flowers and lighting candles at the square where some of the victims' remains and belongings fell to the ground.

Hundreds of relatives also gathered in the small Dutch town of Vijfhuizen, close to Amsterdam's Schiphol airport. A memorial is due to be unveiled there next year. There were 298 sunflowers representing the victims - a reminder of the Ukrainian sunflower field where the bodies lay scattered after impact.

ss/jr (AFP, Reuters)