One year after MH17 plane crash, victims' families still seeking justice

A criminal investigation of the crash in eastern Ukraine continues as five countries call for an international criminal tribunal looking into the case. 

Mstyslav Chernov/AP
A religious procession passes an Orthodox cross with a sign reading Save and Guard at the crash site of the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, near the village of Hrabove, eastern Ukraine, Friday, July 17, 2015.

On July 17, 2014, 298 passengers aboard Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 lost their lives after their plane was shot down in the eastern Donetsk region of Ukraine.

One year later, Ukrainian villagers marched to the crash site in a funeral procession commemorating the victims, joining mourners in Australia and the Netherlands, where the majority of the victims hailed from.

Malaysia held a commemoration last week as the crash’s one-year anniversary lands on a Muslim holiday, marking the last day of Ramadan.

Though the incident garnered international attention, the victim’s families are still seeking justice.

Ukrainian and Western authorities say Russian-backed rebels shot down the plane as it flew from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, while the rebels and Moscow blame Ukraine for the disaster, the BBC reports. 

Meanwhile, News Corps Australia exposed footage yesterday showing Russian rebels rummaging through the luggage of passengers and crew from Flight MH17.

Shot by the rebels themselves, the video captures them searching what they initially believed to be a Ukrainian air force fighter jet they had just shot down using a ground-to-air missile system, reports Sydney’s Daily Telegraph.

As evidence continues to surface, detectives from Australia, Belgium, Malaysia, the Netherlands, and Ukraine are working on a criminal investigation into the case. With support from the United Kingdom, the five countries have also asked the United Nations Security Council to authorize an international tribunal to prosecute those responsible for shooting down the plane.

Yet Russian President Vladimir Putin rejected calls for the tribunal on Thursday, referring to the initiative as “premature and counter-productive.” The Russian government also criticized what it claimed was politicized media coverage of the disaster, according to the BBC.

With or without the confirmation of a tribunal, seventeen families have already taken the matter into their own hands.

On Wednesday, the group filed a $900 million lawsuit against Igor Strelkov, a Russian former rebel also known as Igor Girkin, for acting with the "actual or apparent" authority of Putin's government when the plane was shot down. According to the BBC, the former rebel led the insurgency until last August and is now based in Russia.

Floyd Wisner, the families’ lawyer, told the BBC that the case was aimed at pressuring international governments to identify and prosecute those responsible. 

As the joint criminal investigation continues, the Dutch Safety Board plans to release a final report on the cause of the crash in October.

In an interview with Australia’s Nine Network on Friday, Julie Bishop, the country’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, said, “The investigation has been exceedingly thorough. We will not leave any stone unturned in our quest for justice for the families of MH17."

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