Dutch government to take Russia to European court over MH17

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FILE - In this Friday, Aug. 1, 2014 file photo, Australian and Dutch investigators examine a piece of the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 plane, near the village of Hrabove, Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine. The Dutch government is taking to Russia to the European Court of Human Rights for its alleged role in the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine six years ago, the foreign minister announced Friday July 10, 2020.(AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky, File)

THE HAGUE – The Dutch government is taking Russia to the European Court of Human Rights for its alleged role in the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine six years ago, the foreign minister announced Friday.

The move is intended to support individual cases being brought to the European court by relatives of some of the 298 people who were killed when a Buk surface-to-air missile fired from territory controlled by pro-Moscow Ukrainian rebels blew the Amsterdam-to-Kuala Lumpur flight out of the sky on July 17, 2014.

“Achieving justice for 298 victims of the downing of Flight MH17 is and will remain the government’s highest priority,” Foreign Minister Stef Blok said. “By taking this step today ... we are moving closer to this goal.”

By launching the case against Russia, the Dutch authorities can share evidence with the Strasbourg-based European court so it can be considered in individual relatives' cases.

“As a government, we have information, evidence, that leads us to the conclusion of the involvement of the Russian Federation,” Blok told The Associated Press. “Of course, the relatives themselves do not have all this information so we can help them by starting this procedure.”

Moscow has repeatedly denied involvement in the downing of the Boeing 777. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Russia sees Friday's announcement "in connection with the disaster of the Malaysian Boeing as another blow to Russian-Dutch relations.”

Throughout the case, the Netherlands has acted “exclusively within the framework of anti-Russian logic, to which both technical and criminal investigations were subordinated,” Zakharova said.

However, an international team of prosecutors investigating the case has, however, charged three Russians and a Ukrainian with involvement in bringing down the plane and the murder of all on board. The men are on trial in a Dutch court, although none have been extradited to the Netherlands to face justice.