ATW Editor's Blog

MH17: Now round up the criminals

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Was it an error? Was it intentional? Who was in charge? Who issued the instructions?  Those are the key questions, raised by the international team that investigated the shooting down of a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777. Those questions must now be answered and those responsible rounded up.

The Dutch-led Joint Investigation Team (JIT) has done an excellent job in extremely difficult circumstances to pin down not just what brought down flight MH17, but also how the Russian-made BUK missile got there in the first place.

Like the Dutch Safety Board, which established what happened to cause the crash, investigators had to operate in a dangerous war zone and within the highly politically-charged environment in which all fingers point to Russia’s involvement, direct or indirect, although Moscow has vehemently denied this.

All 298 people onboard the aircraft were killed July 17, 2014, when the missile locked on to the 777 as it flew over eastern Ukraine, where pro-Russian rebels were fighting. The missile exploded close to the aircraft, as designed, as it flew at 33,000ft on its scheduled flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.

The JIT’s meticulous investigation work concludes there was “irrefutable evidence” that MH17 was shot down by a BUK missile. Intercepted telephone conversations, witness statements, photographs and videos also reveal that the missile system was transported from Russian territory into eastern Ukraine and later transported back to the Russian border, which the convoy crossed during the night.

“It came from Russia and was returned to Russia,” JIT says.

As with any criminal act, there are real individuals who can be tracked, brought to trial and be held accountable for what at the least was a grievous act of manslaughter, but which many would say was mass murder of completely innocent civilians.

Russia has most to answer for in the key questions of who and how? The US government, whose intelligence agencies clearly knew all along about the weapons in the area and the potential danger they posed to airliners, even at 30,000ft in approved airspace, has questions to answer also about why such information was not shared with relevant authorities.

But  government resources must now be brought to bear to complete the work that JIT and the safety board have done so thoroughly. They established cause. Governments must identify the likely suspects, bring them in and take them to trial.

Karen Walker karen.walker@penton.com

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