Holding Russia liable for downing MH17

Malaysia AirlinesOn May 23, 2018 Australia and the Netherlands announce they are holding Russia liable for downing a codeshare flight of Malaysia Airlines (MH17) and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines (KL4103) on July 17, 2014.

Downing of flight MH17

The Dutch foreign minister Stef Blok visits Australia In late March 2019. His ministry quotes him as saying: ‘I want to stress: we will not rest until we have uncovered the truth surrounding the downing of flight MH17 and achieved justice for the victims and next of kin".

Unwise statement

MH17 crashThis is not a wise statement as the Dutch Safety Board (DSB) did already uncover the truth in its well documented report Crash MH17, 17 July 2014. The problem is how to achieve justice while the Russian rulers protect the murderers.

Initially, Russia refuses to talk about its liability. But in early March 2019 - 5 years after the downing of MH17 - Australia and the Netherlands hold the first talks with Russia about the subject. Few observers expect any positive result. After all, killing is a normal means in the eyes of the Russian rulers.

New report

On February 21, 2019 the DSB calls for more attention to flying over conflict zones in its report Flying over conflict zones - Follow-up recommendations MH17 Crash. The report is fairly vague, but given its subject that is no surprise.

Information exchange

MH17 crashThe DSB observes that in the Netherlands a special agreement has been established that ensures the exchange of threat information between the Dutch government and Dutch airlines. Moreover, Dutch carriers can turn to a dedicated information desk established by the Dutch intelligence services if they have specific questions.

Justifying decisions

Furthermore, the DSB observes that airlines do not provide adequate information about the chosen flight routes. But it expresses understanding for the sensitivity of the information and the complexity of considerations. Nonetheless, airlines could and should search for a way to justify the decisions they make, according to the DSB.

A disturbing finding is that very few changes relating to airspace management by nations dealing with armed conflict within their territories have been made. Unlike carriers, governments can concentrate on safety without distraction by commercial considerations. Thus, it is easier for them to take action than for carriers.

fly pathsThe 2 airlines responsible for the codeshare flight fail to explain why the plane's flight path was over eastern Ukraine despite several signs this was dangerous:

* On April 3, 2014 the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issues a notice titled "Potentially hazardous situation - Ukraine airspace."

* NATO issues warnings that flying over Ukraine is dangerous.

* Several Ukrainian military planes and helicopters were shot down over eastern Ukraine.

* Some airlines including British Airways had already stopped flying over eastern Ukraine.

Carriers are commercial businesses, so they not only consider safety, but also economic aspects. It is not by chance that the route over Ukraine was the shortest to Kuala Lumpur and saved €1,300 ($1,460) on fuel. This sheds light on airlines' considerations.

Related: "Will Russia ever take responsibility for downing MH17?"

Tags: MH17, Malaysia Airlines, KLM, Russia

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