Netherlands Takes Russia to Human Rights Court Over MH17 Crash

Moscow has denied any involvement in the crash, suggesting instead that it was the Ukrainian military that shot down the plane.

Australian and Dutch investigators examine a piece of the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 plane near the village of Hrabove, Ukraine, on Aug. 1, 2014. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky, File)

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (CN) — The Netherlands brought a case against Russia at the European Court of Human Rights on Friday over the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, escalating tensions over the 2014 crash as a separate criminal trial plays out near Amsterdam. 

The Dutch government announced the decision a week shy of the six-year anniversary of the disaster. Investigators say the flight known as MH17 was shot down by Russian-backed separatists as it was flying over eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014, killing everyone on board.

“Achieving justice for 298 victims of the downing of Flight MH17 is and will remain the government’s highest priority,” Foreign Minister Stef Blok said in a statement. 

A piece of MH17 wreckage lies in the village of Petropavlivka, Ukraine, on July 23, 2014. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky, File)

The European Convention on Human Rights established the European Court of Human Rights in 1953. The convention protects the civil and political rights of those living in its 47 member states. Both Russia and The Netherlands are signatories.

Cases between two members states are rare at the right courts. Only 24 such claims have been filed in the court’s nearly 70-year history and almost half have been filed against Russia. Of the 10 inter-state complaints filed against Russia, six were brought by Ukraine over the annexation of Crimea and the ensuing conflict, including Russia’s alleged role in the MH17 disaster. 

“It is a special tool, but it is also special what happened,” Blok told reporters Friday. The Dutch government filed what is known as an inter-state application with the Court of Human Rights.

In February 2014, some five months before the crash, Russia annexed the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea, which extends from Ukraine’s southern coast, after the pro-Russian government of Ukraine was overthrown. 

Moscow has denied any involvement in the crash, suggesting instead that it was the Ukrainian military that shot down the plane. A five-country joint investigation team, led by the Netherlands, concluded the plane was shot down by a Buk self-propelled, ground-to-air missile. The weapon was developed by the Soviet Union and used by its successor state, Russia.  

The Netherlands is also pursuing criminal charges against four men alleged to have supplied the Buk missile that shot down the Boeing 777, which was en route to Kuala Lumpur from Amsterdam. Of the 298 people on board, 198 were Dutch. That trial started in March and is ongoing

Together with Australia, the Netherlands held Russia liable for the downing of the passenger jet in 2018, opening the door for financial compensation for the families of the victims.  

Cases before the Strasbourg-based Court of Human Rights often take years.

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