Rights court notifies Russia of cases brought against it by MH17 families

Malaysia Airlines MH17 was hit by a Russian-made missile over war-torn eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014, killing all 298 people on board. (Reuters pic)

STRASBOURG: Europe’s top rights court said Thursday it had notified Russia of cases brought by nearly 400 relatives of those killed in the downing of flight MH17 over Ukraine in 2014 that allege Moscow was to blame for the disaster.

The Malaysia Airlines jet was hit by a Russian-made missile over war-torn eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014, killing all 298 people on board.

Russia, which has repeatedly denied responsibility for the destruction of the plane, has 16 weeks to respond to the request for observations, a representative of the European Court of Human Rights told AFP, adding that the whole process could take “several months or even several years”.

MH17 took off from Amsterdam heading for Kuala Lumpur but disintegrated in mid air over eastern Ukraine.

Close to two thirds of those killed on the flight between Amsterdam and Kuala Lumpur were Dutch.

A Netherlands-led probe concluded in May 2018 that the plane was struck by a Buk surface-to-air missile controlled by Russia’s 53rd Anti-Aircraft Rocket Brigade, based in the city of Kursk.

Australia and the Netherlands blamed Russia for the disaster.

The ECHR said in a statement that the cases against Russia allege that Moscow “was directly or indirectly responsible for the destruction of the plane and failed to investigate the disaster properly or cooperate with other investigations”.

Russia denies any responsibility for the mid-air destruction of flight MH17.

The two cases have been brought before the court on behalf of 380 people from Australia, Belgium, Canada, Germany, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Israel, Malaysia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the Philippines, the United Kingdom, the United States of America and Vietnam.

Five countries – Australia, Belgium, Malaysia, the Netherlands and Ukraine – continue to investigate the disaster.