Russia, Putin sued by victims' families over Malaysian Airlines crash

Australian relatives of the victims of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 are suing Russia and President Vladimir Putin in the European Court of Human Rights, their lawyer said.

All 298 people on board were killed when the plane crashed in the pro-Russian rebel-held territory of Ukraine after being apparently hit by a missile on 17 July, 2014.

LHD Lawyers, a Sydney-based personal injury law firm, filed the compensation claim on May 9 on behalf of five Australian families.

"The victims' families, of whom there are 33 next of kin that we represent, have sued Russia and its president for the destruction of MH17. The claim is 3,000 pages, including supporting documents," the plaintiffs' lawyer Jerry Skinner told dpa Monday.

Investigators concluded that the aircraft suffered an impact consistent with a Russian-made surface-to-air missile, according to the Dutch Safety Board. The plane was en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.

The suit alleges that Russia hid its role in the downing of the plane, failed to conduct internal investigations and that its cyber warfare unit hacked the Dutch Safety Board investigative website.

"This is just the beginning," said Skinner, a US aviation lawyer who won compensation from Libya for victims of the 1988 Lockerbie terrorist bombing.

"We haven't heard back from the court since we lodged the claim."

The claim also alleges the Russian presence at the site of the incident, the presence of heavy equipment and a particular BUK missile convoy.

"An act like this that destroys civilian aircraft in a conflict zone violates the right to live," Skinner said.

The claim seeks 10 million dollars in compensation per person. 

"If you look at President Putin asking for 50 million dollars reward for information leading to the crash of the Metrojet in the Sinai Desert, the compensation we are asking for is right," Skinner said.

Last year, Russia vetoed a United Nations bid to form a tribunal. Countries like Malaysia, the Netherlands, Australia and Ukraine are exploring other options, including trials in international courts. 

A criminal investigation into the crash led by the Dutch officials is continuing.

A Russian politician said the MH17 lawsuit constitutes a part of a hybrid psychological war against Russia, local TASS media reported.

"There was not any evidence proving Russia’s involvement in the Boeing 777 crash near Donetsk," said Frants Klintsevich, the deputy chair of Russia Federation Council Committee on Defense and Security.

"The lawsuit against our country is legally null and void and has no prospects."

Skinner said the Russian reaction was expected.

"It is not a surprising response, especially given that they did not cooperate in the investigations and they vetoed the UN probe."

Last week, New South Wales state coroner Michael Barnes said the deaths were "part of a gross, mass murder."

"The fatal injuries were inflicted as a result of a person or persons who has or have not yet been identified, deliberately firing a missile equipped with an exploding warhead at the jetliner in which the deceased persons were passengers, causing it to disintegrate at high altitude," he told an inquest in Sydney.

Last update: Fri, 24/06/2016 - 14:20
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