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 Possibility of MH17 prosecution seems doubtful due to Russia's rejection of UN tribunal - WSJ

A year after crash over eastern Ukraine, big challenges stand in way of efforts to pursue justice. Russian President Vladimir Putin says he won’t accept a proposal for the U.N. Security Council to set up a criminal tribunal over the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, casting doubt on the prospect of bringing those responsible to justice under international law. Though there are other avenues to pursue a prosecution.

Censor.NET reports citing the article in the Wall Street Journal by Paul Sonne.

In a phone call Thursday with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, Mr. Putin called the proposal "untimely and counterproductive," according to a Kremlin statement. He said a "thorough and objective" international investigation had to finish before countries took any decisions on how to punish those guilty of the crime.

Read more: MH17 tribunal to be considered by Security Council in defiance of Russia's veto, - Foreign Ministry

Russia holds a veto in the U.N. Security Council, giving it the final say on any of the council's efforts. A year after the crash in eastern Ukraine, there are other avenues to pursue a prosecution, but the challenges are deep.

"Not all hope is lost," said David Scheffer, a law professor at Northwestern University and former U.S. Ambassador at Large for War Crimes Issues. "Many times, these efforts at building tribunals go through many stages of setbacks and then forward movement, until you actually get the court established."

A total of 298 people died aboard the Boeing 777 flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. A five-country team investigating the incident led by the Dutch has said their primary theory is that the aircraft was downed by a Buk surface-to-air missile shot from rebel-held territory. Rebels have denied downing the aircraft. Russia has suggested Ukraine is responsible.

Watch more: New footage reveals Russian-backed rebels arriving at wreckage of MH17. VIDEO

Countries with citizens on board-including the Netherlands, Malaysia, Australia and Belgium-and Ukraine are pushing the nascent effort to establish a tribunal. The U.K., which also had citizens on board, also backed the effort on Friday.

Any tribunal is likely to grow out of the results of an international investigation. The Dutch are spearheading two such probes: one led by the Dutch Safety Board, tasked with ascertaining the cause of the crash, and the other by the Dutch prosecutor's office, charged with finding suspects and building a case.

The safety board's results are due in October. Any criminal charges would come later.

Watch more: More footage from MH17 crash site shot by passers-by appeared online. VIDEO + SUBTITLES

Moscow has attacked both inquiries already, accusing investigators of denying Russia full participation and reproaching the safety board for what it called "inadequate compliance" with the rules of the International Civil Aviation Organization. Dutch officials have rejected those accusations.

Russia has suggested the U.N. Security Council set up its own international probe. Even if that happens, it is unlikely Russia would ever accept the results of any investigation that ultimately blamed Moscow or the rebels it backs for the crash.

Philippe Sands, Professor of Law and Director of the Centre on International Courts and Tribunals at the University College London, agreed that an authoritative account of the facts is necessary before deciding what should happen next, but he acknowledged the difficulty of that task in this case.

"Russia's track record does not suggest they are about to jump smilingly and enthusiastically into a full-scale investigation of what happened," Mr. Sands said.

See more: Chemical examination found submunitions from Boeing corresponding to Russian Buk missiles - Butusov. PHOTOS

Russia is arguing that a tribunal isn't only premature but also unsuitable. "The U.N. Security Council has never created any tribunals in the event of civilian aircraft crashes," Mr. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said at a news conference Thursday, according to state news agency RIA Novosti.

In a statement this week, the Russian Foreign Ministry called tribunals previously set up by the Security Council to deal with Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia "ineffective, expensive, too long and extremely politicized."

So far, Malaysia has circulated a draft of the proposal for an international tribunal at the Security Council. If Russia vetoes it, the countries pursuing the idea still have a number of alternatives at their disposal.

One possibility is for them to pursue a tribunal through the U.N. General Assembly rather than the Security Council, according to Mr. Scheffer. He cited the Khmer Rouge Tribunal in Cambodia as an example.

See more: Torez residents who photographed Russian Buk after missile launch at MH17 deserve an award, - Butusov. PHOTOS
Meanwhile, individuals are free to pursue their own cases. Family members of MH17 victims filed a lawsuit this week in a U.S. District Court in Chicago against Igor Girkin, a Russian citizen and former Ukrainian rebel defense commander who goes by the nom de guerre Igor Strelkov, demanding a total of $850 million in damages, according to their lawyer, Floyd Wisner.

Asked about the case by the Russian news outlet Gazeta.ru, Mr. Strelkov declined to comment. He said he was troubled that the families "valued the lives of their relatives in monetary terms."

Read more: Families of MH17 victims sued terrorist Girkin for $900 million, - The Telegraph

 
 
 
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