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The MH17 Trial: The Dangers of Presuming the Fairness of a Geopolitically-Driven Enterprise

Inspection of the MH17 saga teaches us, in the first instance, never simply to presume that an enterprise that appears to have the status of an officially supported and endorsed international legal proceeding must on that account be above reproach.

By Oliver Boyd-Barrett | 28 April 2021

MINT PRESS NEWS — November 2020 saw the conclusion in Schiphol, the Dutch airport near Amsterdam, to the pre-trial hearings in the case being brought by the Dutch Prosecution Service against three Russians (Igor Girkin, Sergey Dubinskiy, Oleg Pulatov) and one Ukrainian (Leonid Kharchenko), former military leaders of the Donetsk People’s Republic. They were charged with the delivery of a Russian Buk-Telar missile launcher that was allegedly used by separatists in eastern Donbass to shoot down civilian Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 on July 17, 2014, with the ensuing loss of 298 lives.

Following the Court’s consideration in March and April 2021 of defense requests for further investigation, which it would allow, the main trial itself was scheduled to begin on June 7, 2021, in the District Court of The Hague. Regardless of its outcome, I shall argue that this trial and all the major stages that preceded it – notably, the Dutch Safety Board (DSB) investigation of the “facts” (see final report here) and the Dutch-led Joint Investigation Team’s (JIT) determination of criminal responsibility (see final report here) – remain a very troubling basis for the pursuit of justice.

In the unlikely event that the court should find in favor of the defense, it would in effect concede deep processual flaws of the system that brought it into being. In addition to the propaganda functions of a show trial, commitment to the procedure has the attraction of (falsely?)  identifying a culpable party from whom reparation may be sought on behalf of victims and, if judgment of reparation be made, establishing a pretext for later aggression or a negotiation chip, as was the case in the Libyan Lockerbie incident. […]

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