The Dutch District Court of The Hague has found three people guilty of causing the 2014 crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 and the murder of all 298 people on board. The aircraft, a Boeing 777 enroute from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, went down in July 2014. The Dutch Safety Board determined that MH17 was downed by “the detonation of a 9N314M-type warhead launched from the eastern part of Ukraine using a Buk missile system,” a finding the court concluded the evidence presented proved beyond doubt. The aircraft was cruising at 33,000 feet when it was shot down. Airspace below 32,000 feet was closed at the time due to armed conflict between Ukrainian armed forces and pro-Russia separatist groups.

Russian Sergei Dubinsky was found guilty for his role in organizing and directing the transport of the Buk missile system to and from the launch site. Ukrainian separatist Leonid Kharchenko was sentenced for having ensured the missile system was guarded and protected at the launch site. Russian Igor Girkin, the military leader of pro-Russia rebel group the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), was convicted for his role in deciding to deploy the missile and in making the missile system “disappear as quickly as possible” following the crash. All three were sentenced in absentia to life in prison along with being assessed 16 million euros in damages. While their arrests have been ordered, it is thought highly unlikely that Russia will extradite the men.

The court stated that the missile crew likely believed they were shooting at a military aircraft rather than a civilian airliner. Russian Oleg Pulatov, who was responsible for maintaining a corridor to and from Russia, was acquitted. The court noted that it believed he knew about the missile but was neither in the vicinity when it was fired nor could have changed anything about the event. Russia called the trial, which lasted over two years, “one of the most scandalous in the history of legal proceedings.”

The English-language summary of the judgment can be found at www.courtmh17.com/en/news/2022/summary-of-the-day-in-court-17-november-2022—judgment.html.

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