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United Nations: Tribunal on Accountability for Malaysia MH17 Crash

(July 1, 2015) Australia, Belgium, Malaysia, the Netherlands, and Ukraine, the five countries involved in the Joint Investigation Team looking into the July 17, 2014, Malaysia Airlines crash, have expressed the desire to have a United Nations tribunal established. The tribunal would try those responsible for the downing of the airplane, which resulted in the deaths of 298 people, that is, all the passengers and crew members on the flight. (Netherlands, Malaysia Push for UN Tribunal for MH17 Culprits, JAKARTA POST (June 24, 2015).) The Netherlands, which lost the greatest number of citizens in the crash, is leading the investigation into the crash, which thus far has reached no final conclusions.

Malaysia is reportedly planning to present a draft resolution to the U.N. Security Council on the matter in July 2015. The advocates of a tribunal would like it to be established before the Joint Investigation Team completes its work. (Id.)

According to one Dutch official, “[a] U.N. tribunal is the best option. We expect that it will provide the greatest chance of cooperation from all countries involved.” (Anthony Deutsch, Exclusive: International Tribunal Looks Like Best Chance for MH17 Justice – Dutch Sources, REUTERS (June 24, 2015).) Reports indicate that it is unlikely a trial would take place in Ukraine, the site of the crash, or the Netherlands. (Id.)

The focus of Dutch prosecutors is reportedly on the theory that the incident was caused by a surface-to-air missile sent from an area in Ukraine controlled by pro-Russian separatists. However, no indictments will be considered in the Netherlands until after the Dutch Safety Board releases a report on the event; that report is expected in October of this year. (Id.)

Previous Related Security Council Action

In 2014, the Security Council adopted a Resolution condemning “in the strongest terms the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17.” The Resolution, which passed unanimously, called for full cooperation of all parties with a thorough investigation of the incident and demanded that those responsible be held accountable. (Resolution 2166 (2014), S/RES/2166/2014 (July 21, 2014), U.N. website; Press Release, Security Council Coalesces Around Resolution 2166 (2014) on Malaysian Jet Crash Demanding Accountability, Full Access to Site, Halt to Military Activities (July 21, 2014), U.N. website.)