The murder trial for those who killed all passengers onboard Malaysia Airways flight MH17 over Ukraine will begin on Monday. After six years since the airliner was mistakenly shot down, the families and friends of the victims could finally be about to get some justice.
What happened to flight MH17?
On July 17th, 2014, Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 took off from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. Airlines had noted the brief skirmishes between Russian sponsored forces in Ukraine and the national guard on their distant border, but so far the conflict had only been restricted to a small area.
Some airlines had diverted flight traffic around the area of tension, but many had not (up to 160 that day). It was felt it was unlikely that the rebels possessed the technology (and the motivation) to target a commercial aircraft.
MH17 was flying over the region when it was mistaken for a Ukrainian spy plane and was shot down by a Russian anti-air missile. The plane had been carrying 283 innocent passengers and 15 crew members.
The Boeing 777-200 was ripped in two, with the aircraft fuselage and its victims being strewn across six sites. The incident is similar to the recent missile attack on a Ukrainian Boeing 737 in Iran.
After a long investigation period, it was concluded that a Russian army missile carrier had entered the warzone, shot down the plane and then retreated when the mistake was realized. As such, the authority determined four suspects were involved and should stand trial for murder.
Who is on trial?
There are four key people on trial for the murder of all those on board the aircraft. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, they are:
- Igor Vsevolodovich Girkin, the leader of the rebel military. As the highest-ranking military official, he would have been aware of the Russian missile carrier in the area and was technically in charge of it. It is unknown if he personally gave the order to fire.
- Sergey Nikolayevich Dubinsky, an intelligence operative from the Russian army that gave the information that MH17 was a military aircraft.
- Oleg Yuldashevich Pulatov was another intelligence officer that was working with Dubinsky.
- Leonid Volodymyrovych Kharchenko, local Ukrainian commander of the rebel military forces where the missile truck was stationed.
The investigation was unable to conclude if any of these officers gave a direct order or was present at the time of launching. But, they would have been aware of the operation. If the command structure was followed, each one could have been a potential person to give final authority.
What are they being charged with?
Specifically, each of these individuals is being charged with:
- Causing a crash of an aircraft and its destruction.
- Murder of all those onboard.
They are being charged under Dutch law, as most of the passengers were Dutch on vacation. As such, each will receive life imprisonment if found guilty.
The four people have not yet been caught and will be tried in absentia. It is unlikely that they will be captured as they have gone into hiding somewhere in Ukraine or Russia. Russia has denied that it provided the missile and has continuously claimed that it belonged to the rebel faction.
The trail is expected to last well into 2021, with the first phase lasting four weeks.
Overall it’s good to see that the trial is moving ahead despite the fact that the accused have not yet been captured. However, it’s a shame that Russia has not admitted responsibility as Iran did only a month ago. All we can hope is that this trial brings some closure to the victims’ families.
What do you think? Let us know in the comments.