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MH17: The Quest For Justice Seminar... A Case Of Justice Delayed Or Politicised?


It has been 5 years since the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17. On July 17, 2014, the Boeing 777 plane en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was shot down as it was flying over a war territory in Ukraine, killing all 227 passengers and 12 crew members on board. Among those killed were from Malaysia, the Netherlands, Australia, Indonesia, the United Kingdom, Belgium, Germany, New Zealand, Canada and the Philippines.

On August 17, 2019, I had the opportunity to join an international seminar organised jointly by the International Movement for a JUST World, the Perdana Global Peace Foundation and the Canadian-based Centre for Research on Globalisation at the International Islamic University of Malaysia in Gombak, Kuala Lumpur. The seminar, titled 'Seminar Menuntut Keadilan MH17' (MH17: The Quest for Justice), aimed at critically examining the JIT’s findings on MH17, evaluating the investigations’ strengths and weaknesses, and making proposals to help determine the truth in the tragedy. The conference also attempted to lay out the timeline of events and evidence, while establishing the geopolitical context.


To be honest, I merely dropped by for the food. My refrigerator had run out of foodstuff other than beef, which I had been receiving from visiting relatives since Eidul Adha, and I thought I would leave right after lunch. However, being the curious potato that I am, I decided to hang around until late afternoon. The catered luncheon was bad (the fish meat pieces tasted like plastic), but I was lucky to get a personal insight on the case of MH17 along with the local news reporters and journalists. It was not until the second session that I found something not quite right with the whole discussion. 

As the seminar title suggested, one would have assumed that it was about the victims' next-of-kin finally claiming compensation from the Russian/Ukraine government. Unless I am the only one who had thought so. The conference setting looked formal and interesting but the moment the session arrived at "Review of Evidence and Background" it has suddenly shifted to theories of conspiracy and political soap opera. I felt like I have just stepped into the Twilight Zone.


First of all let me remind you that I am merely a simple person living a simple life in the midst of a rural district that is still waiting patiently for the new government to implement a train transportation that connects my home to my workplace (which is around 155 miles apart). I do not possess any qualifications nor expertise relating to international conflicts. Therefore I assure you that my writing on this seminar is purely neutral based on a layman's view since I have zero knowledge about the current international politics, and any opinion of mine made in this post is entirely personal and without prejudice.

I shall now summarise what I manage to fathom during the seminar in this blog...

LIST OF SPEAKERS

1. Chandra Muzaffar - President of non-governmental organisation JUST, and long-time political commentator. Kicks off the seminar with his keynote speech.

2. Michel Chossudovsky - A member of the Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Commission helmed by Dr Mahathir. Describes himself as an “award-winning author” and emeritus professor of economics at the University of Ottawa with three citizenships (Canada, Ireland, UK), published articles on his website regarding MH17.

3. Yana Yerlashova - A reporter with Russia-funded news agency Russia Today (RT). Also a documentary maker at state broadcaster RT and a journalist with Mir TV. Her documentary film MH17 ― Call for Justice is shown at the conference.

4. Akash Rosen - A security consultant and digital forensic expert. He is a computer science graduate from the University of Malaya and Universiti Teknologi Malaysia. Featured in Yerlashova's film.

5. Peter Haisenko - A veteran pilot with Germany's Lufthansa Airlines. Claims that MH17 was shot down by a fighter jet from Ukraine.

6. Kees van der Pijl - A Dutch political economist and author, as well as a peace and democracy activist. He wrote a book titled Flight MH17, Ukraine and the New Cold War. Prism of Disaster.

7. John Philpot - Canada-based criminal lawyer. Has acted as a lawyer at the International Criminal Court (ICC) and at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. Also listed as one of the seven judges at the Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Tribunal which convened on November 20, 2013.

8. Gurdial Singh Nijar - A former law professor at Universiti Malaya and now a practising lawyer, he is the president of the National Human Rights Society (Hakam). He was on the prosecution team for the Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Tribunal in several cases, such as against former US president George W. Bush and Israel.


CHRONOLOGY OF MH17 INVESTIGATION

To recapitulate the main points of the official investigation report:
  1. Malaysian Airlines MH17 was said to be downed by a BUK anti-aircraft missile by “pro-Russian separatists” with the support of Moscow.
  2. Malaysia is part of a Dutch-led multinational Joint Investigation Team (JIT), together with Australia, Belgium, Ukraine and the Netherlands, to identify and prosecute those responsible for shooting the plane out of the sky. 
  3. The JIT announced that four individuals – three Russians and one Ukrainian – would be charged with the downing of MH17.
  4. The four were Russian nationals Igor Girkin, Sergey Dubinskiy and Oleg Pulatov, and Ukrainian Leonid Kharchenko.
After the deadly crash, international investigators from the Netherlands and Australia concluded that both the missile that attacked the plane as well as the tanks that transported the missile belonged to the Russian military. Moscow has vehemently denied involvement with the incident and has over the years come up with various theories as to the cause of the crash, laying the blame on the Ukrainian side.


BACKGROUND REVIEW

According to the Dutch investigation, Moscow was accused without evidence of being behind the downing of MH17 from the very outset. Following the MH17 tragedy, the head of SBU was entrusted with the gathering and feeding of evidence to the Dutch inquiries. The first official report on behalf of the Ukrainian government was released by SBU on August 7, 2014 and it accuses pro-Russian rebels of having downed the plane with Moscow’s support. 

The Dutch investigation then “confirmed” that the Malaysian airlines plane was “hit by a Russian-made BUK surface-to-air missile that was brought into Ukraine from Russia before the shootdown and subsequently taken back across the border...”

(At this point I was like "What the heck-?")

The Netherlands and Australia announced in May that they believe the missile that shot down flight MH17 was transported to Ukraine from a military unit in the Russian city of Kursk. Both governments officially declared that “they hold Russia responsible for the incident”.

Important pieces of evidence including eye witness reports, audio and video material transmitted through Ukraine Intelligence (SBU) are then alleged to have either been manipulated or excluded from the Dutch inquiry, which largely endorses Washington’s accusations directed against Moscow.


ANALYSIS OF EVIDENCE (AS PRESENTED BY HAISENKO AND VAN DER PIJL)

The Buk missile system has the capabilities of downing an aircraft flying at 35,000 feet. Two days before the downing of the MH17 flight, a division of Buk missile systems of the Ukrainian Armed Forces was seen deployed to the Donetsk Oblast on July 15.

From both Russian and Ukrainian sources there was evidence of Ukrainian BUK missiles deployed in Eastern Ukraine. The Ukrainian military has several batteries of Buk surface-to-air missile systems with at least 27 launchers, capable of bringing down high-flying jets. Russian Defense sources confirmed the presence of several Ukraine missile batteries in the Donetsk Oblast.

The Prosecutor General of Ukraine Vitaliy Yarema confirmed that the Donetsk rebels did not have BUK ground to air missiles which could have downed the plane, which suggests that the missiles of the Ukraine armed forces had been deployed but they were not in the possession of the rebels.

(Okay, I'm trying to brain this theory. Lousy lunch. Correct me if I am wrong - are they pointing out that the pro-Russian rebels were not the ones who shot down MH17 but the Ukranian armed forces? Didn't they just mention that the missile come from a military unit in Kursk aka the Russian 53rd Anti-Aircraft Missile Brigade? WHO was in charge of giving orders to move and fire the missiles in the first place?)

According to the report of German pilot and airlines expert Peter Haisenko, the MH17 Boeing 777 was not brought down by a missile. He said this was due to the presence of shrapnel-like-holes based on his observations on pictures of the debris of the aircraft. Haisenko, who had served as a co-pilot and captain with Lufthansa on international routes, stood his ground that a commercial aircraft does not disintegrate mid-air without an internal explosion.

(Seriously, I'm beginning to acquire a major headache here. WAS THERE or WAS THERE NOT a missile? Sigh, we could use the Infinity Glove over here...)

Among other analysis of evidence during the session include:
  1. The flight path of MH17 being changed on the day of the event - MH17 was said to have been diverted from the normal South Easterly route over the sea of Azov to a path over Donetsk. Who was behind the change of  the flight path? And why was the flight path changed?
  2. No firm evidence that a BUK missile had actually been fired - expert analysis confirms that the firing of a BUK missile would have left a visible white vapor trail in the sky for about ten minutes after firing.
  3. “Bullet like holes” pointing to the possibility of an attack by a second aircraft - analysts from the Russian Union of Engineers remarked that the destruction of the Boeing 777 was a result of missile systems using “air-to-air” close-combat missiles as well as a 30-mm aircraft cannon or an SPPU-22 container with GSh-23L 23-mm dual-barrel guns.
  4. Eyewitnesses interviewed by the BBC who confirmed the presence of a Ukrainian military aircraft flying within proximity of Malaysian Airlines MH17 at the time that it was shot down - the mysterious second aircraft was said to have flown underneath the civilian plane moments before it disappeared (see video below).


(What confuses me more is the introduction of a Ukrainian fighter jet plane into the whole plot. I thought the JIT had said "it has irrefutable evidence to establish that MH17 was shot down by a BUK missile.")

(The award for Conspiracy Theorist Of The Day should be given to Kees van der Pijl. His thoughts on the US' role in the tragedy, which led to new sanctions on Russia, is mind-blowing. As for Trump, I guess his obliviousness towards the whole MH17 business is as bad as mine following his silence on the matter at a summit that coincided with the tragedy’s fourth anniversary. I can imagine him saying, "Guys, I just met Putin and guess what - the Russians say they didn't do it!")


LEGAL DIMENSIONS

The world wants to hold someone accountable for the 298 people killed. But determining whom to go after - and how to hold them responsible - won’t be easy.

Legal expert Datuk Dr Gurdial Singh Nijar suggested that a class-action suit be filed against Ukraine by family members of MH17 crash victims to hold liable the country where the aircraft was shot down. He said Malaysia can build a case from various evidence, which suggests that the Ukranian government did not fulfil its international obligation by preventing the incident from happening. Gurdial suggested that such a class action lawsuit be filed in Ukraine as the allegations of negligence is against the country, but also noted that there could be an arrangement for a neutral venue like in the Lockerbie, Scotland case where Pan Am Flight 103 was downed.

The fact that the airspace above East Ukraine was not closed to civilian aircraft is in itself a demonstration of callous disregard on the part of the Ukrainian authorities. Questions have been raised about this. A family of one of the victims has proceeded to sue the Ukraine government for negligence but presumably Kiev did not view the airspace as dangerous enough to warrant closure. Does Kiev have a point? After all, other airlines were still overflying the war zone. How much does this matter when trying to place blame?

Meanwhile, Canadian lawyer John Philpot voiced doubts about a forthcoming murder trial of three Russians and a Ukrainian for allegedly shooting down MH17. The trial of the four suspects is expected to begin in the Netherlands in March next year, though they might be tried in absentia because Russia would not hand over its citizens. The whereabouts of the Ukrainian implicated in the charge remains unknown.


MALAYSIA ON MH17 INVESTIGATION

On June 20, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad described the decision to charge the four individuals with murder over flight MH17 as a political plot against Russia. The Malaysian Prime Minister had called the move by Dutch-led investigators to charge three Russians and a Ukrainian with murder for the 2014 disaster “ridiculous” and “politically motivated” against Moscow. 

He said Malaysia was not convinced by the JIT's findings and demanded that the investigators provide proof that the Russians were behind the shooting.

“We are very unhappy because from the very beginning it became a political issue on how to accuse Russia of wrong-doing,” he told reporters in Malaysia earlier today.

Mahathir’s comments have not gone down well in the Netherlands, whose citizens made up close to 70 per cent of all the passengers on the flight.

(I just remembered something... didn't the former Prime Minister Mohd Najib Razak had a step-grandmother who was killed along in the MH17 tragedy?)

SEMINAR CONCLUSION

In conclusion of the seminar, JUST president Dr Chandra Muzaffar said he will try to talk to Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad over the findings of this conference.

“We find that the investigation led by the JIT to be flawed, and we want to make sure that we get a word in, to delay the criminal proceedings which will start in 2020,“ he told reporters after the conference.

He was referring to the recent announcement made by the JIT that concluded that MH17 was shot down by a BUK missile system.

Dr Chandra claimed that a new investigation to redress the "irregularities" of the JIT investigation was required, given the evidence – detailed by presenters in the first three sessions of the conference – had been ignored by the JIT.

The action plan stated that if the JIT's report was flawed, there was a need to formulate alternative measures. Dr Chandra said the action plan also stated that skies over war zones should be closed to commercial airlines, as recommended by the JIT report.


Meanwhile, in the Ukrainian news...

A CONSPIRED MURDER DRIVEN BY GEOPOLITICAL CONFLICT?

Britain’s news tabloid The Mail, quoting the head of Ukraine intelligence (SBU), Valentyn Nalyvaichenko, stated that the insidious design of the pro-Russian rebels (allegedly supported by Moscow) was to shoot down a Russian commercial airline plane with tourists en route to Cyprus, with a view to blaming the Ukrainian government. The objective of this alleged “false flag” covert op was to create a justifiable and credible pretext for Vladimir Putin to declare war on Ukraine. In a bitter irony, according to the report, the alleged “false flag” covert op got muddled. The rebels got it all wrong and hit the MH17 plane by mistake.

What the “pro-Russian rebels” (according to the SBU report) were aiming at was a Russian Aeroflot passenger plane. The MH17 was shot down “by mistake” according to an official statement by Nalyvaichenko (Ukraine News Service, August 7, 2014).

Igor Ivanovich Strelkov, a Russian national and the Head of the Rebel Forces in Donetsk region, disseminated information on shooting down a Ukrainian military airplane AN26 in Donetsk on a Russian social media website, with photo and video materials attached, showing smoke caused by the explosion. After the media coverage of the MH17 crash, Strelkov’s post disappeared from the social media website.

MY THOUGHTS ON THE SEMINAR

It seems that many major issues have not been resolved in the MH17 probe. Several speakers at this event had disputed and even accused the JIT's findings of MH17 being downed by a BUK missile fired from the ground as “lies”, while also presenting their own alternative theories of what they believed happened to the plane. So many speculations instead of solutions being raised that I find it incredibly frustrating to listen further. They should have renamed the seminar as 'MH17: Endless Debate To See Whose Fault It Is That A Civilian Plane Got Shot Down'.

You have a bunch of educated and intelligent people on this planet lumped together in one spot and yet no one can still figure out how to make the world a better place. Politics, diplomacy, law - all the yadda yadda that supposedly regulate society's lives - have totally ruined humanity. And what was the war between Russia and Ukraine for, exactly?

Forming a new investigation team to redress irregularities detected in the current one may sound helpful, but  that would take so much time to resolve. Imagine the feelings of the victims' next-of-kin having to endure this geopolitical drama for years. At this point I don't think the quest for truth matters anymore. What people want is justice - not the "oh, we've caught our perpetrators and now we'll execute them so that everyone will live happily ever after" type of justice, but the type that protects the victims' families' interests and welfare for a lifetime.

Hopefully more irrefutable evidence can be sought through the new inquiry team to pin the guilt on either Russia or Ukraine, but most importantly, to identify which party is responsible for the sufferings the victims' families have gone through.

Tentang YunFila

Seekor kentang gemuk bertopi. Meminati kucing, teknologi, steampunk, membeli-belah secara online, melayari YouTube serta mengumpul topi. Juga memiliki obsesi terhadap kentang pink pada tahap yang membimbangkan.

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