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MH17: Australia, the Netherlands launch legal fight against Russia over downing of Malaysia Airlines plane

Australia has launched legal proceedings against Russia over the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 in 2014.

In a joint statement from Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Attorney General Michaelia Cash and Foreign Minister Marise Payne said “we have maintained since May 2018 that the Russian Federation is responsible under international law for the downing of Flight MH17”.

“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, which claimed the lives of 298 victims, 38 of whom called Australia home.”

The two countries will rely on the following evidence in their legal bid via the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO):

  1. Flight MH17 was shot down by a Russian Buk-TELAR surface-to-air missile system;
  2. The missile system was transported from Russia to an agricultural field in the east of Ukraine on the morning of July 17, 2014 — an area under the control of Russian-backed separatists;
  3. The missile system belonged to the Russian Federation’s 53rd Anti-Aircraft Military Brigade, and was accompanied by a trained Russian military crew;
  4. From the launch site, the Buk-TELAR fired the missile that shot down Flight MH17, killing all 298 people on board;
  5. The missile could only have been fired by the trained Russian crew of the Buk-TELAR, or at least by someone acting under their instruction, direction or control; and
  6. The Buk missile system was returned to the Russian Federation shortly after the downing of Flight MH17.

In 2020 Russia withdrew from the negotiations regarding their culpability.

“The Russian Federation’s refusal to take responsibility for its role in the downing of Flight MH17 is unacceptable and the Australian Government has always said that it will not exclude any legal options in our pursuit of justice,” the statement read.

Evie, Otis and Mo Maslin perished aboard MH17.
Camera IconEvie, Otis and Mo Maslin perished aboard MH17. Credit: Unknown/Supplied

The tragedy claimed the lives of four members of the Maslin family from WA.

The Perth family tragically lost their three children Mo, 12, Evie, 10, and Otis, 8, — along with the children’s grandfather Nick Norris.

Monday’s move is in addition to the Dutch national prosecution of four suspects for their individual criminal responsibility in the downing of Flight MH17.

The floral tributes left to the victims of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 at Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport.
Camera IconThe floral tributes left to the victims of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport. Credit: Mogens Johansen/WA News

“Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified invasion of Ukraine and the escalation of its aggression underscores the need to continue our enduring efforts to hold Russia to account for its blatant violation of international law and the UN Charter, including threats to Ukraine’s sovereignty and airspace,” the statement said.

“While we cannot take away the grief of those whose loved ones died as a result of Russia’s actions, the Australian Government will pursue every available avenue to ensure Russia is held to account so that this horrific act never happens again.”

Attorney-General Michaelia Cash said she was motivated to seek justice for the Maslin family.

“I have been pushing for justice against Russia since I became Attorney-General because my heart was broken for the victims like the Maslin Family who lost their three children Mo, Evie, and Otis,” Senator Cash told The West Australian.

“Nothing can atone for that grief and loss, but we as a Government have always said we would do everything we could to achieve justice for the victims and their families.

“Ever since I have been appointed Attorney-General I have been working with the Foreign Minister to ensure we are taking every avenue available to us to ensure accountability for Russia’s actions.”

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