Ministerie van Defensie

Spotlight on MH17

Ministerie van Defensie

On 28 September 2016, Dutch investigators announced the downing of flight MH17 was the result of “a Buk missile from Russia.” According to the international prosecutors they also narrowed down the space from where the missile was launched. 17 July 2016 marked the two-year anniversary of the downing of MH17 above Eastern Ukraine.

Since the crash, staff at The Hague Institute have published a number of analyses and commentaries on the topic. The research highlights various aspects of the aftermath, including legal avenues for redress for families of victims, fact-finding and independent investigations, and post-conflict reconciliation. Below is an overview of the Institute’s work relating to MH17.

“Following the Dutch Safety Board report released in October 2015, yesterday’s announcement provided new insights, including an undisclosed list of 100 potential suspects and witnesses. The report also showed that the Buk installation that downed the flight was smuggled from Russia to Ukraine and back. However, the JIT report does not implicate the Russian government. The path towards justice for the victims also remains unclear. Russia can veto any UNSC resolution for a hybrid international tribunal, as it did in July 2015. At the time, President Putin said that it was “premature” and “counter-productive.” While Russian support for this investigation and potential prosecution remains unlikely, a hybrid international court is more necessary than ever.”

Dr. Aaron Matta, Senior Researcher

Background:  In mid-2016, families of Australian victims initiated proceedings for compensation against Russia, before the European Court of Human Rights, and before the Federal Court of Australia against Malaysia Airlines. A delegation from the Dutch Public Prosecution Service visited Moscow to discuss legal assistance in the criminal investigation into the downing, where Russian authorities have indicated their readiness to cooperate. In June 2016, the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) communicated that it would present the first results from the criminal investigation in the Autumn. The JIT is comprised of authorities from the home states of victims, including the Netherlands, Australia, Belgium, Malaysia and Ukraine. The JIT’s final report will most likely present findings that can be used in a potential case or cases before domestic courts or a special tribunal that would have to be created for that purpose. The Dutch Safety Board released its report on 13 October 2015 following a 15-month multinational investigation on the 2014 downing of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17. The report shed light on the technical aspects of the crash.

News and Commentary

Families of MH17 Victims Take Legal Action | 14 July 2016
Dr. Jill Coster van Voorhout spoke to AFP about the lawsuits launched by families of victims of MH 17 and the role of fact-finding in these procedures.

Do All Roads Lead to Rome? | 14 October 2015
Dr. Aaron Matta and Tom Buitelaar published a guest post on Opinio Juris, a leading international law blog. Their analysis focuses on the legal and political challenges relating to and arising from Ukraine’s declarations submitted to the ICC.

MH17 Report to Put Dutch-Russian Relations in Spotlight | 13 October 2015
On the day of the release of the Dutch Safety Board report on MH17, Dr. Aaron Matta outlines a number of the legal aspects of the downing in The Moscow Times. Dr. Matta assesses the likelihood of criminal prosecution and state responsibility for the crash, and details the venues in which justice could be pursued.

Potential Legal Redress Following the Downing of Malaysia Flight MH17 | 28 August 2015
On 27 and 28 August, Dr. Aaron Matta, Senior Researcher in the Rule of Law Program, and Anda Scarlat, Summer Fellow in the Rule of Law Program, published a two-part commentary on the Opinio Juris Blog. The commentary looks at the downing of Malaysia Flight MH17 in eastern Ukraine and explores the potential legal avenues for redress available to the victims’ families, the affected states and the international community as a whole.

The Complexities of Fact-Finding: Ukraine and MH17 | 14 August 2015
The inquiry into the downing of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 on 17 July 2014 in the Donetsk region in Eastern Ukraine is a stark example of the complexities surrounding fact-finding. An international inquiry is difficult always, but this particular investigation faces additional challenges. Jill Coster van Voorhout examines the fact-finding aspects of the incident.

“From the perspective of fact-finding, future accountability measures, and justice for the next of kin of the victims, it’s important that the JIT ruled out alternative scenarios and established these facts up to the standards required by a court of law.”

Dr. Jill Coster van Voorhout, Senior Researcher

International Criminal Justice in Ukraine | 16 February 2015
The Minsk II-accord, which was struck last week by negotiators from Germany, France, Russia and both sides of the Ukrainian conflict, offered a glimmer of hope for a reduction of violence. However, even though in some areas a ceasefire has been implemented, intense fighting continues in other parts of Ukraine, especially around the contested town of Debaltseve. It shows that a significant number in both camps still has little faith that a negotiated compromise will put an end to the violence, which has already killed over 5,300 people.

Introducing a New Word to the Existing Arsenal: The Crash of MH17 | 10 September 2014
On September 9, 2014, the Dutch Safety Board (OVV) released their report describing what happened to Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 over Eastern Ukraine. In their findings, the investigators introduced a new term to the preliminary report: crash.

Facts First: The MH17 Tragedy, Fact-Finding and Accountability | 23 July 2014
Amidst many attempts to cast blame pending proper fact-finding, the Dutch government has wisely directed its political and diplomatic efforts towards the establishment of an independent investigation into the downing of the civilian plane MH17.  Jill Coster van Voorhout assesses the fact-finding aspects of the incident.

Will EU Member States Reach a Common Position on Possible Sanctions on Russia after MH17’s Crash? | 22 July 2014
After Malaysian Airlines MH17’s passenger jet crashed  last Thursday, allegedly hit by a Russian-supplied missile fired by pro-Russian rebels in Ukraine, EU foreign ministers convened today in Brussels to discuss the imposition of further sanctions on Russia. The response of the Netherlands, which lost 193 people in the incident, is expected to be crucial although the decisions by the UK, France and Germany will shape the final EU position.

Convening Expertise

Distinguished Speaker Series – Pavlo Klimkin | 17 April 2015
On 17 April, The Hague Institute for Global Justice in cooperation with the Embassy of Ukraine in the Netherlands welcomed Mr. Pavlo Klimkin, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine for a moderated discussion on the topic “Ukraine in the Global Context.”

Further Reading

Active: Fact-Finding in Lebanon

This three-year project, Fact-finding in Lebanon:  The Netherlands Support to Forensic Capability and Uptake in Lebanon, aims to ensure an integrated approach to forensics in…


Completed: Conflict Prevention in The Hague

This pilot project is part of the Institute's international research on City Responsibility: The Role of Municipalities in Conflict Prevention, which aims to understand how municipal…


Active: Distinguished Speaker Series

The Distinguished Speaker Series (DSS) showcases eminent practitioners in international affairs and is the centerpiece of the Institute’s high-level engagement with practitioners and academics in the city…