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Malaysia Pushes For UN Tribunal On MH17 Downing; Russia Balks

  • RFE/RL

Members of a group of international experts inspect wreckage at the MH17 crash site in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine on August 1.

Members of a group of international experts inspect wreckage at the MH17 crash site in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine on August 1.

Malaysia told the United Nations Security Council July 2 it plans to push for a UN-backed tribunal to prosecute those suspected of shooting down a passenger airliner last year in eastern Ukraine.

The proposal was developed jointly by the five nations investigating the crash of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 that killed all 298 passengers in territory held by Russian-backed separatists.

Malaysia's UN Ambassador Ramlan bin Ibrahim said a draft statute of the proposed international criminal tribunal will be circulated to the 15 security council members next week, with a vote possible this month.

A UN court would "provide the highest degree of legitimacy for the trial and prosecution mechanism for MH17, to ensure that the perpetrators are brought to justice," he said.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, whose country had the greatest number of nationals among the victims of the crash, said a UN tribunal is “the best option to prosecute those responsible for the MH17 disaster, as it is the best chance to get them before a court of law."

Some diplomats said Russia described the proposal as premature and said the council should wait for the results of ongoing investigations. Others said Russia did not formally object and seemed willing to consider the idea.

Russia's agreement to any UN tribunal would be essential, since it wields veto power over security council resolutions.

"Our sense was that all council members, including Russia, were open to further consider the matter," said Malaysian diplomat Johan Ariff Abdul Razak.

Russia's UN mission declined to comment. Russian leaders have previously balked at the idea.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennadiy Gatilov previously called the proposal "not timely and counterproductive," and said investigations of the matter should be completed before any further steps are taken.

Russia is engaged in a tense dispute with the West over who is responsible.

Ukraine and Western countries accuse the rebels of shooting the plane down with a Russian-made missile. Russia denies accusations it supplied the rebels with SA-11 Buk anti-aircraft missile systems.

The Netherlands is leading the multinational investigation into the crash. Russia objected July 2 to preliminary findings by the investigators that the missile was fired by Russian forces or separatists fighting in the area.

Russian investigators have been looking into the crash separately.

New Zealand's UN Ambassador Gerard van Bohemen, who is president of the security council this month, said considering the differences between the West and Russia, "I expect that issue to be the subject of quite intensive consultations in the course of the coming months."

With reporting by Reuters and AFP
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