Australia and the Netherlands file suit against Russia over Malaysia Air crash

Australia and the Netherlands Monday filed joint legal action against Russia at the United Nations aviation agency, International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), concerning the 2014 downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17.

Flight MH17 was en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur in July 2014 when it crashed in Eastern Ukraine. All 298 passengers and crew on board were killed. 196 passengers were Dutch and 38 were Australian. Since 2018, both Australia and the Netherlands have claimed Russia was responsible for the crash. Additionally, in July 2020 the Netherlands filed an inter-state complaint against Russia in the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

The MH17 crash occurred during the peak of the 2014 conflict between Ukraine and Russia in Eastern Ukraine. International investigators found that a Russian Buk missile fired from the rebel-held portion of Eastern Ukraine was responsible for the crash. Russia has since denied any involvement.

Monday’s joint legal action is a result of Russia’s October 2020 withdrawal from negotiations over the MH17 crash and the ongoing war in Ukraine. Since Russia has refused to return to negotiations, Australia and the Netherlands filed a joint action under Article 84 of the Convention on International Civil Aviation through the ICAO. The ICAO is a United Nations agency responsible for the support of diplomacy and cooperation in air transportation.

In a statement about the action, Australia said an overwhelming amount of evidence indicates Russia should be held responsible for the crash. The statement read: “Today’s joint action by Australia and the Netherlands is a major step forward in both countries’ fight for truth, justice and accountability for this horrific act of violence.”

Dutch Foreign Minister Wopke Hoekstra said in the Netherlands’ statement: “The government will continue to do everything in its power to call Russia to account for the downing of flight MH17 and to uphold the international legal order.” In addition to Monday’s joint complaint, the Netherlands also filed separate prosecutions against four individuals suspected of criminal responsibility for the MH17 crash.