MH17: A complex legal case looms

Emergencies Ministry members work at the site of a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 plane crash in the settlement of Grabovo in the Donetsk region, July 17, 2014. — Reuters pic
Emergencies Ministry members work at the site of a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 plane crash in the settlement of Grabovo in the Donetsk region, July 17, 2014. — Reuters pic

KUALA LUMPUR, July 21 — Malaysia’s government faces the stark reality of a complicated legal battle to collar the country responsible for shooting down Flight MH17 in skies over a part of Ukraine controlled by Russia-backed rebels.

No one has admitted responsibility, leaving Ukraine, the separatist movement and Russia in the frame for the attack.

Concerns about the inadequacy of investigations into the crash may also complicate Malaysia’s legal case.

Lawyers have yet to be appointed to represent Malaysia.

“It’s too early at this point in time” Malaysia’s Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman told Malay Mail Online Saturday.

 He would not say if a local legal firm had already briefed his ministry on the matter.

All 298 people on board were killed when the Malaysia Airlines plane was downed late Thursday, allegedly by an anti-aircraft missile.

According to media reports the grisly remains of the bulk of victims are being moved from the crash site and packed into refrigerated trains to be sent to a yet-to-be-determined destination.

There were 43 Malaysians on the flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.

Malaysia’s legal recourse could be through the United Nations’ International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) that could order an investigation based on Article 3 of the Chicago Convention 1944, which prohibits any attack on a civilian aircraft.

The claim would be in the form of compensation and damages.

“The ICAO can condemn the incident and the perpetrators. They can also order for safety measures to be implemented to prevent a repeat of such incidents,” lawyer New Sin Yew, who has expertise in international law, told The Malay Mail Online Saturday.

New cited the case of Iran, which requested that ICAO  condemn the United States and order reparation for moral and financial damages after a US Navy ship mistook an Iranian passenger plane for a fighter jet and shot it down over the Persian Gulf in 1988, killing all 290 people on board.

Malaysia, Ukraine and Russia are all signatories of the Chicago treaty.

Criminal charges at the International Criminal Court for terrorism or crimes against humanity may be possible with co-operation from Ukraine or the United Nations Security Council.