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Fri, Nov 18, 2022

Dutch Court Rules on 2014 Downing of Malaysian Airliner

Three Men Sentenced to Life in Prison

A Dutch court has sentenced three men to life in prison for the murders of 298-people killed in a 17 July 2014 missile attack on a Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777-200ER.

The aircraft—operating at the time as MH17—was enroute to Kuala Lumpur (KUL) from Amsterdam (AMS) when it was shot down over territory held by pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine. The incident occurred in the early days of a conflict between pro-Russia separatists and Ukrainian forces—the precursor to the prevailing Russo-Ukrainian conflict.

The court determined also that the airliner had been brought down by a Russian BUK missile—a self-propelled, medium-range, surface-to-air weapon developed by the Soviet Union to counter cruise missiles, smart bombs, fixed and rotary-wing aircraft, and unmanned aerial vehicles.

Presiding judge Hendrik Steenhuis stated: "The court is of the opinion that MH17 was brought down by the firing of a BUK missile from a farm field near Pervomaisk, killing all 283-passengers and 15-crew members.”

Four suspects were involved in the atrocity, though only three—Igor Girkin, a former colonel in Russia's FSB intelligence service; Sergei Dubinsky, an employee of Russia's GRU military intelligence agency; and Leonid Kharchenko, a Ukrainian national who commanded a combat unit in Eastern Ukraine despite having no formal military background—were sentenced.

The three men, though found guilty, are unlikely to be incarcerated as their convictions were handed down in absentia. The suspects, by dint of arcane convolutions peculiar to E.U. criminal law, refused to take part in the trial, which was held at the Schiphol Judicial Complex in Badhoevedorp, the Netherlands.

The fourth individual—Oleg Pulatov, a former soldier of GRU special forces and deputy head of the intelligence service in Donetsk—was acquitted due to lack of evidence.

The Dutch court’s verdict in the two-year trial occasions the first instance in which an independent judgment has been passed on the 2014 incident. The court found that there was insufficient evidence to determine which of the three suspects launched the BUK missile, and that the crew likely believed they were firing on a military aircraft, not a passenger jet. However, the court also ruled that the defendants were not entitled to combat immunity insomuch as none of them were official parties to the conflict. Ergo, the men—noncombatants all—were prohibited from shooting down any aircraft, military or civilian.

The evidence reviewed by the court included fragments of a BUK missile found embedded in the aircraft and the recovered bodies of a number of the tragedy’s victims, along with videos and images showing a BUK system being moved into eastern Ukraine from Russia and then back into Russian territory following the downing of the plane.

Citing the aforementioned, Judge Steenhuis ruled out any alternative explanations for the loss of MH17 and the 298 lives she bore.

FMI: www.courtmh17.com

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