(CN) – Nearly one year since the crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, the families of passengers filed a federal wrongful-death lawsuit against the troubled airline and the rebel leader they claim had the plane shot down over the Ukraine.
At least one surface-to-air missile took down the flight bound for Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, after it took off from Amsterdam, Netherlands, on July 17, 2014, killing all 298 passengers and crew aboard the plane, according to the complaint filed Wednesday in Chicago.
The plane crashed while flying over a part of the Ukraine “which was an internationally recognized conflict zone, extremely dangerous,” and was a no-fly zone for U.S. airlines, the lawsuit claims.
Reine Dalziel, whose husband, Cameron, was killed in the crash, is the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit. Named as defendants are Malaysia Airlines and Igor Girkin aka Igor Strelkov, the Russian “commander in chief of an army of separatists and rebels in an area of the Ukraine, self-styled as the Donetsk Peoples Republic.”
Dalziel says the court has jurisdiction through Malaysia Airline’s offices in downtown Chicago.
“On July 17, 2014, following the destruction of MAS Flight 17, individuals acting under the command responsibility of defendant Girkin, and with his aid and abetting and in conspiracy with him, took responsibility for the shooting down of MAS Flight 17,” the complaint states.
Dalziel says Girkin also ordered his fighters to take personal belongings of the crash victims to his army’s headquarters.
Girkin acted with the authority of the Russian government by transporting a missile unit from Russia to the Ukraine, according to the complaint.
Filing suit under the Torture Victim Protection Act and an international treaty known as the Montreal Convention, Dalziel says that “the shoot down of MAS Flight 17 was an extrajudicial killing within the meaning of the TVPA, in violation of international law.”
“The deadly use of force against a civilian airliner is expressly forbidden in international law under numerous international treaties,” the complaint states.
Girkin is a specially designated national under the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets and Control Sanctions List, the lawsuit claims. The rebel leader is also allegedly named under EU, Canadian, Swiss and New Zealand government sanctions as a member of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation.
“The objects of defendant Girkin’s conspiracy were the shooting down and destruction of MAS Flight 17 and the killing of plaintiffs’ decedents and the intentional infliction of emotional distress upon plaintiffs,” the complaint states.
Dalziel and the other plaintiffs seek $50 million including punitive damages for each victim of the crash. They are represented by Floyd Wisner in Geneva, Ill.
Only one plaintiff – Yasmine Calehr – is a citizen of the United States, according to the complaint.
The others are reportedly residents of different countries but all represent victims of the plane crash.
Malaysia Airlines has not returned a request for comment emailed Thursday.
Last July, shortly after the MAS Flight 17 tragedy, an EU Council committee added names to a roster of people and corporations being sanctioned for supporting Russian’s destabilization of Eastern Ukraine.
Months before the flight crashed, Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 mysteriously vanished on a trip to Beijing. A Cook County, Ill., judge quickly tossed a discovery petition over that incident.
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