Russia vetoed in the Security Council of the United Nations a resolution to establish an international tribunal to prosecute persons responsible for the shooting down of Malasia Airlines flight MH17 and the death of 298 people, on 17 July 2014 in Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine, an area controlled by the pro Russian rebels against Kiev.
The civilian plane was hit by a missile while overflying the war zone in Ukraine. All their occupants died instantly. Two thirds of them were Dutch and there were people from other 9 nationalities. Since then rebels and Ukrainians forces are accusing each other of launching the missile. There is an ongoing investigation that is stumbling with a lot of difficulties on the ground controlled by the rebels. The shoot down of the flight caused high consternation because it was a direct attack against a civil target with almost 300 innocent foreign victims.
Now Russia, which supports the rebels, has vetoed the establishment of an international tribunal for the perpetrators of the attack that could have been a mistake, but has become the worst war crime in Europe this Century.
The initiative was made on behalf of five countries participating in the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) on the downing of MH17 (Australia, Belgium, Malaysia, the Netherlands, and Ukraine).
The draft resolution was introduced by YB Dato’ Sri Liow Tiong Lai, Minister of Transport of Malaysia, to the Security Council. It builds on UNSC Resolution 2166 dated 21 July 2014, which demanded that those responsible be held to account and that all States cooperate fully with efforts to establish accountability.
According to the Malaysia foreign ministry, they “believed that the establishment of an international criminal tribunal by the Council would send a strong signal that the international community is committed to taking actions against those who threaten international peace and security by endangering civil aviation. It will also send a clear message to the growing number of non-State actors with the ability to target civilian aircraft that such attacks are unacceptable.”
“Malaysia believes that an international tribunal sanctioned by the UN Security Council would be the best mechanism to deliver justice for the victims of MH17 since it would create a legal obligation for all UN member states to cooperate with the proposed tribunal.”
“The establishment of a tribunal prior to the completion of the criminal investigation would also ensure that this establishment is as depoliticised as possible, and is consistent with the Security Council’s own practice in relations to other ad hoc criminal courts and tribunals. Regardless of whom the perpetrators were, Malaysia wants to ensure that the arm of justice will reach them and that there will not be impunity.”
“Unfortunately, the draft resolution failed to be adopted by the UNSC due to a veto from Russia, despite obtaining 11 votes of support from Chad, Chile, France, Jordan, Lithuania, Nigeria, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America. China, Venezuela and Angola abstained from voting.”
“Malaysia is deeply disappointed by the failure of the Security Council to adopt the draft resolution to ensure justice for the victims’ families and loved ones, and accountability for the perpetrators. It is sending a dangerous message of impunity for the perpetrators of the heinous crime, as well as jeopardising the safety of civil aviation over conflict zones in the future.”
“A veto today does not mean there will be impunity for MH17. Malaysia will remain steadfast in our determination to pursue accountability for the perpetrators and to ensure justice for all the innocent victims on board MH17. We will consider and explore other viable options and prosecuting mechanisms that would ensure that justice will be served and that the perpetrators will be held accountable for their actions.”