Sue Ukraine for MH17 disaster, lawyer suggests

Gurdial Singh Nijar, head of the National Human Rights Society.

GOMBAK: Human rights activist and lawyer Gurdial Singh Nijar has suggested that a class-action suit be filed against Ukraine by family members of MH17 crash victims to hold liable the country where the aircraft was shot down.

MH17 was brought down by a missile strike and crash in eastern Ukraine, a disputed area between the Ukraine government and separatists. An international investigation has held three Russians and a Ukrainian responsible.

Gurdial said the federal government, through the Attoney-General’s Chambers, could support such a suit, giving as an example a suit that the government took against Kelantan for failing to deal with Orang Asli welfare in the state.

“Maybe this is a good avenue to explore,” he said at a conference today on the MH17 tragedy.

Gurdial, who heads the National Human Rights Society (Hakam), is appearing on behalf of the federal government in the Kelantan lawsuit.

He made the suggestion of the Ukraine suit while speaking as a panellist at a conference on seeking justice for family members of the MH17 victims.

He said the Ukraine government had not warned airlines or closed the airspace over the combat zone in eastern Ukraine, among other things. Questions remained whether the Ukraine government had fulfilled their international obligations.

He added that in civil actions, the litigants attempt to hold the government of the country liable in terms of failing to take precautionary measures and warn airline companies not to fly over the disputed areas as required under the Montreal Convention.

“Whether we succeed in this, or otherwise, is a different matter. At least, there will be enough place for publicity and bring out the alternative narratives on the country that will be responsible,” Gurdial said.

Another speaker at the conference, Canadian lawyer John Philpot, voiced doubts about a forthcoming murder trial of three Russians and a Ukrainian for allegedly shooting down MH17.

He said a Dutch colleague had described the trial as an attempt by the Dutch government to write history. “They know they cannot extradite the men, and the trial will be done in their absence and no one will be able to counter the evidence,” he said.

The accused are Igor Girkin, Serget Dubinsky and Oleg Pulatov  who are Russian nationals who had served in the army and in intelligence, and Leonid Kharchenko, a former Ukrainian commander.