Four suspects are to go on trial in the Netherlands charged with the murder of 298 passengers and crew on board Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, in what the Australian government says is the first significant step towards achieving “justice and accountability”.
In July 2014, MH17 was travelling over territory in eastern Ukraine when it was shot down by a Russian surface-to-air missile.
All passengers and crew, including 38 Australians, died.
The trials get underway on Monday and are the result of a five-year international criminal investigation – a joint investigation team comprising Australia, Belgium, the Netherlands, Ukraine and Malaysia.
The Australian government has consistently campaigned for a trial to bring to justice those responsible for the shooting down of MH17.
“While nothing can bring back those who lost their lives, Australia will continue to fight for justice for the victims of MH17 and their families,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Foreign Minister Marise Payne said in a statement on Saturday.
“We are supporting the Dutch prosecutions, including funding the victims’ families to participate in, travel to, or otherwise have meaningful access to the trials.”
“The Australian government remains steadfast in its commitment to pursuing justice and accountability for MH17”.
Statement welcoming the start of the MH17 trials in the Netherlands. Australia is determined to continue in our efforts to seek justice for the deaths of 38 Australian citizens and residents in the downing of MH17. pic.twitter.com/FWxtsp9eDL
— Marise Payne (@MarisePayne) March 7, 2020
They said the prosecutions are separate but complementary to the ongoing talks following Australia and the Netherlands’ attribution of State responsibility to the Russian Federation for its role in the tragedy.
In May 2018, the investigation concluded that the Russian military played a key role in providing the deadly missile to the separatists.
Three Russians and a Ukrainian have been charged with murder over the shooting down of the plane.
Dutch authorities haven’t attempted to extradite the suspects as Russia and Ukraine don’t allow their nationals to be extradited for criminal trials.
Russia had previously requested the Netherlands to let it prosecute the three Russian nationals.
Their request was refused, the Russian suspects and the Ukranian will be tried in absentia.