Dispatch from Ukraine: Hague trial of suspects in Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 bombing adjourned until September
Ukrainian law students and young lawyers report to JURIST on national and international developments in and affecting Ukraine. This dispatch is from Anastasiia Rozvadovska, a recent graduate of Taras Shevchenko National University in Kyiv.
On July 17, 2014, MH17 was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur over an area in eastern Ukraine where Ukrainian government forces were fighting Russian forces. Prosecutors say the plane was shot down by a surface-to-air missile fired from Russian-controlled territory. All 298 passengers and crew were killed, including 196 Dutch citizens. The Netherlands and Australia have said they hold Russia responsible for supplying the missile system used to shoot down the plane. Moscow of course denies any involvement.
In August 2014, the Netherlands, Ukraine, Malaysia, Australia and Belgium set up a joint team to investigate possible foul play in the downing of the plane. In 2017, these countries agreed that the prosecution would take place in the Netherlands under Dutch law.
In June 2019, prosecutors named the first group of suspects: Russians Sergey Dubinsky, Oleg Pulatov and Igor Girkin, and Leonid Kharchenko. Prosecutors identified them as having participated in the organization and delivery of the missile system that brought down the plane.
The problem is that even though the Netherlands issued an international arrest warrant for the four, who are believed to be in Russia, Russia has not cooperated with the court or extradited its subjects. However, Oleg Pulatov’s lawyers, as well as an expert in Russian law and a translator, were present at the start of the proceedings. The other three men – Igor Girkin, Sergei Dubinsky and Leonid Kharchenko – are all tried in absentia. However, if the suspects are found guilty and sentenced in absentia without participating in the trial, they have the possibility of being retried if they are detained in the Netherlands.
Pulatov’s defense team asked the court for a full acquittal in March.
“Our client is not the one who pressed the button, nor the one who ordered the button pressed, nor the one who authorized the pressing of the button, nor the one who provided the weapon,” he said. said defense attorney Sabine ten Doesschate. the court at the time. According to her, the prosecution deliberately turned a blind eye to other explanations for the air disaster. She also questioned the validity of much of the evidence presented during the two-year trial.
At the end of last year, the prosecution requested a rare life sentence for the four men. “Only the maximum sentence is appropriate,” pleaded prosecutor Manon Ridderbecks in December.
The trial ended June 10, 2022 with a video address (from 37:35) by Oleg Pulatov, one of the four defendants, who said he did not plead guilty to the downing of MH17 and the death of 298 people. “I am not guilty, I have nothing to do with the accident of July 17, 2014,” he said in Russian, which was translated by the court. His lawyers called the charges baseless and urged the court to acquit Pulatov.
Presiding judge Hendrik Steenhuis said the next hearing would be on September 22 at 10:00 a.m. local time, but would be formal. The court is supposed to indicate when the judgment could be given at this hearing. According to Steenhuis, the court needs time to consider all the arguments.
Many Ukrainians followed the legal process because it concerns Ukrainian territory currently held by Russia. According to Russian propaganda, there was no Russian army in this area. In my opinion, the court’s decision will once again show that Russian citizens have actually been fighting Ukrainian forces since 2014.