Australia and the Netherlands today initiated legal proceedings against the Russian Federation in the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) for the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 in 2014.
We have maintained since May 2018 that the Russian Federation is responsible under international law for the downing of Flight MH17.
Today’s joint action by Australia and the Netherlands is a major step forward in both countries’ fight for truth, justice and accountability for this horrific act of violence, which claimed the lives of 298 victims, 38 of whom called Australia home.
Australia and the Netherlands will rely on overwhelming evidence that:
- Flight MH17 was shot down by a Russian Buk-TELAR surface-to-air missile system;
- the missile system was transported from Russia to an agricultural field in the east of Ukraine on the morning of 17 July 2014 – an area under the control of Russian-backed separatists;
- the missile system belonged to the Russian Federation’s 53rd Anti-Aircraft Military Brigade, and was accompanied by a trained Russian military crew;
- from the launch site, the Buk-TELAR fired the missile that shot down Flight MH17, killing all 298 people on board;
- the missile could only have been fired by the trained Russian crew of the Buk-TELAR, or at least by someone acting under their instruction, direction or control; and
- the Buk missile system was returned to the Russian Federation shortly after the downing of Flight MH17.
In October 2020, Russia unilaterally withdrew from negotiations with Australia and the Netherlands regarding the downing of Flight MH17, and refused to return to the negotiating table despite repeated requests by Australia and the Netherlands.
The Russian Federation’s refusal to take responsibility for its role in the downing of Flight MH17 is unacceptable and the Australian Government has always said that it will not exclude any legal options in our pursuit of justice.
Today’s joint action under Article 84 of the Convention on International Civil Aviation is in addition to the Dutch national prosecution of four suspects for their individual criminal responsibility in the downing of Flight MH17.
Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified invasion of Ukraine and the escalation of its aggression underscores the need to continue our enduring efforts to hold Russia to account for its blatant violation of international law and the UN Charter, including threats to Ukraine’s sovereignty and airspace.
While we cannot take away the grief of those whose loved ones died as a result of Russia’s actions, the Australian Government will pursue every available avenue to ensure Russia is held to account so that this horrific act never happens again.