On Jun 19th 2019 the Dutch Joint Investigation Team (JIT) held a press conference regarding developments in the case of the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17. An intricate collection of evidence behind the murder charges were brought against four men this week.
According to a comprehensive press release from the Netherlands Public Prosecution Service, the investigators sent out an international arrest warrant for each of the four suspects facing prosecution.
On July 17, 2014, Flight MH17 flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was shot out of the sky as it flew over eastern Ukraine. The Boeing 777 was carrying 298 people at the time. According to NBC News, of the 298 onboard, there were:
- 189 Dutch nationals
- 44 Malaysians
- 27 Australians
- 12 Indonesians
The remainder were from eight other countries. However, four victims could not have their nationalities verified.
In 2015, the Dutch Safety Board took the lead in providing victim’s relatives with clarity as it made attempts to identify the cause of the crash. It finally came to the conclusion that flight MH17 had been hit by a BUK missile. The Buk is a Russian-made air defense missile system according to website military-today.com.
The four suspects were put on National and International Tracking Lists. Their names are as follows, according to The Aviation Herald:
- Igor Girkin. Formerly a high ranking officer in Russia’s secret service and was the military commander of the separatists during the time of the shoot down.
- Sergey Dubinskiy. Formerly a high ranking officer within the GRU, Russia’s Main Intelligence Service. Was also Igor Girkin’s deputy at the time of the incidents.
- Oleg Pulatov. Formerly a military commander of a specialized Russian intelligence service and at the time of the incident and was the deputy head of the separatists’ secret service.
- Leonid Kharchenko. A Ukrainian citizen with no military background. However, Kharchenko was commander of a military unit in the Donetsk region at the time of the shoot down. He received his orders directly from Dubinskiy.
According to Dutch criminal law, “persons who are not present during the execution of a crime but who play an important organising role are just as liable to punishment as the person who actually commits the crime”.
Listed on the Netherlands’ official prosecution service site, the accusations against these suspects amount to:
being responsible for the downing of flight MH17, resulting in the death of all passengers and crew, punishable under article 168 of the dutch penal code, and,
murder of the 298 people on board of flight MH17, punishable under article 289 of the dutch penal code.
The investigators spoke to witnesses and made use of satellite imagery, wiretaps, forensic evidence and large amounts of intercepted phone metadata.
In fact, one example of evidence is a transcript of a phone conversation intercept that was made public in 2015. The conversation was between Dubinsky and a Russian associate on the morning of the day of the attack. It indicated that the launcher and its crew were a part of the Russian army’s 53rd Anti-Aircraft Missile Brigade.
On Wednesday, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued the following statement:
“The Russian Federation once again finds itself the target of completely unfounded accusations intended to discredit it in the eyes of the international community.”
In the short term, the Dutch prosecution service will formally request the Russian Federation to “hand over the summons to the suspects who are in the Russian Federation”. They will also ask them to question the suspects about the accusations. Furthermore, a formal request will go to Ukraine with respect to the Ukrainian suspect.
The Public Prosecution Service is not asking for extradition the four suspects, because both the Russian and the Ukrainian Constitution prohibits extraditing its own nationals. However, the Russian Federation has yet to answer requests for legal assistance.