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Russia’s MH17 downing case can proceed

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The European Court of Human Rights decided that the prosecution against Russia for the downing of flight MH17 can proceed.

The court concluded that the claims launched by Ukraine and the Netherlands against Russia for alleged violations of human rights following the 2014 crash in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions of Ukraine and the shooting down of MH17 were admissible.

In a judgement, the court stated, “Among other things, the court determined that territories in eastern Ukraine held by separatists were under the jurisdiction of the Russian Federation from 11 May 2014 until at least 26 January 2022.”

The cases, which were submitted prior to Russia’s conflict with Ukraine, will now advance to the merits stage, which is anticipated to take at least one further year before a final verdict is rendered.

Wednesday, after the judgement, Dutch Foreign Minister Wopke Hoekstra stated, “This is a clear signal to Russia” and referred to the decision as a “important milestone.”

Since Russia’s parliament voted in June to end the court’s authority, the final ruling is not expected to have much of an effect on Russia. The court asserts that it has jurisdiction over proceedings initiated prior to Russia’s withdrawal, but it has no means to enforce its rules.

A Dutch court decided in November 2013 that as of mid-May 2014, Moscow had “total authority” over the military of the Donetsk People’s Republic in eastern Ukraine. Two Russian men and one Ukrainian man were given life sentences for their roles in the downing of the aeroplane between Amsterdam and Kuala Lumpur, which resulted in the deaths of 298 passengers and crew.

On July 17, 2014, over separatist-held eastern Ukraine, a Malaysian Airlines aircraft was shot down. The Netherlands filed its lawsuit with the ECHR in 2020, alleging that the downing of Flight MH17 violated the European Convention on Human Rights.

Russia has denied any participation in the aircraft’s destruction.

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