Australia urges UN support for tribunal to prosecute those who downed MH17

Malaysia’s draft resolution to establish a tribunal – a joint proposal with Australia, the Netherlands, Belgium and Ukraine – has been dismissed by Russia

Australia urged the United Nations security council on Tuesday to support the establishment of an international tribunal to prosecute those suspected of downing Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 in eastern Ukraine last year.

Malaysia, part of the 15-member council until 2016, distributed a draft resolution on the tribunal last week, which it hoped could be adopted later this month. It is a joint proposal with Australia, the Netherlands, Belgium and Ukraine.

However, the move has been dismissed by Russia, which is a veto-wielding permanent member on the 15-member council, along with France, Britain, China and the United States. Russia has the option of blocking the proposal if it is put to a vote.

“The establishment of an international criminal tribunal … would send a clear message that the international community will not tolerate acts that threaten international peace and security by endangering civil aviation,” the Australian foreign affairs minister, Julie Bishop, said in a statement.

“A tribunal established by the council would ensure broad international support for prosecutions and would maximise the prospects of securing international cooperation, which will be necessary for an effective prosecution,” she said.

The minister said she expected the final report on the disaster would be released within a few months, making it all the more urgent to set up the tribunal.

She said Australian aviation authorities had been given the initial report, but due to international aviation law restrictions it had not been provided to her department or any other government department.

The initial report found MH17 was hit by a large number of high-energy objects from outside the aircraft – consistent with the view that it was shot down by a surface-to-air missile, most likely fired by Russian-backed separatists.

A national memorial service will take place in the Great Hall at Australia’s Parliament House on Friday, when prime minister Tony Abbott will unveil a plaque bearing the names of the 38 victims who were citizens or residents of the country.

The plaque will be installed alongside that which honours 88 Australians killed in the 2002 Bali bombings.

The Australian flag will be flown at half-mast on all government buildings as a mark of respect. A number of other memorial events are planned across the country.

Flight MH17 was shot down a year ago with 298 passengers on board, two-thirds of them Dutch. It crashed in Ukrainian territory held by Russian-backed separatists.

Ukraine and western countries accuse rebels in eastern Ukraine of shooting down the plane with a Russian-made missile. Moscow has rejected accusations it supplied the rebels with SA-11 Buk anti-aircraft missile systems.


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