Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Dutch officials consider Lockerbie analogy for MH17 trial

[What follows is excerpted from a Reuters news agency report published yesterday:]

The Netherlands is discussing with its allies an international tribunal to prosecute those suspected of downing a Malaysian airliner over rebel-held eastern Ukraine last year, sources familiar with the discussions have told Reuters.

The chance of a successful prosecution is considered slim at best but the Dutch still hope that, by pushing for a UN-style court with the backing of Western allies, they could pressure Russia, whose role in the process is critical, into cooperating.

Of the 298 dead passengers and crew on Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, two-thirds were Dutch. With the anniversary of the disaster looming on July 17, the government is under intense pressure to act from a public who mostly believe Russia either shot down the plane or supplied the rocket to those who did.

Two sources in the Netherlands, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, said the legal and political complexities of the case had persuaded it to focus on creating an international court backed by the UN Security Council, once a multinational investigation finishes and suspects are named. (...)

With relations between Russia and the West at their lowest ebb since the Cold War, Moscow might have little interest in cooperating with any trial held in the West.

But since an international court would require backing from the UN Security Council, Russia would be forced either to acquiesce or to use its veto and risk being seen as the main obstacle to justice in a mass killing of civilians.

If Moscow refused to back a tribunal, the Netherlands could push for further economic sanctions beyond those already imposed by the European Union and the United States over Russia's annexation of Crimea from Ukraine last year and its support for the rebels, one diplomatic source said. (...)

The sources said the Dutch would like the court to be based in the Netherlands, although details of which law would apply and how the suspects would be captured and tried had yet to be worked out.

The closest analogy might be the 1988 Lockerbie bombing, when Pan Am flight 103 was blown out of the sky over Scotland, killing all 243 people onboard.

Two Libyan secret service agents were handed over by Libya's late leader Muammar Gaddafi under the pressure of broad economic sanctions. They were put on trial in the Netherlands under Scottish law, and one was convicted.

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