FINALLY, those responsible for the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 over Eastern Ukraine in 2014 will stand trial in the Netherlands.
Malaysia and other countries involved in the disaster have decided on the matter after having long consultations. The countries involved in this decision also make up the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) that investigated the tragedy, namely the Netherlands, Australia, Belgium, Malaysia and Ukraine.
We have yet to know the details of the trial and when it will begin.
This latest development will bring relief to the families of the victims and next of kin who have been waiting for justice.
MH17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014. All 283 passengers and 15 crew on board were killed.
So far, investigations by JIT showed that the flight was shot down by a Russian BUK missile system that was fired from a field controlled by pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.
There were similar conclusions from investigations by the United States and other countries’ intelligence agencies.
However, the Russian government has persistently denied its involvement and points the finger back at the Ukrainian government.
In 2015, the Netherlands asked the United Nations to set up a special tribunal to investigate the disaster and prosecute the perpetrator, but the proposal was vetoed by Russia.
The decision to bring the matter to the Netherlands court is wise as the country has a long history of dealing with international high-profile cases.
Not to forget, well-known international courts, namely the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and International Criminal Court (ICC), are located in The Hague. They are equipped to handle international cases effectively and efficiently.
Having said that, we must not forget that there could be a downside to the decision.
The prime suspect in the case, Russia, may question the impartiality of Dutch judges, given the high number of Dutch victims.
The Russian government might regard the decision as heavily influenced by their enemy, namely the US. As such, the Russian government might hesitate or refuse to give their full commitment and cooperation to solve the case.
More importantly, if the culprits turn out to be Russians, it may create complications when it comes to requesting for extradition of suspects, thus it would be difficult for the Dutch court to enforce any final sentences.
Due to these reasons, it is better to start thinking of other potential avenues in case this effort fails. There are other ways to fight for justice, like invoking local criminal laws, such as the Penal Code and Aviation Offences Act 1984.
The matter can be brought to the attention of the ICC.
By bringing the matter to ICC, the incident can undergo a smooth trial as the ICC has significant experience and expertise in such matters.
All nations must give their full support and cooperation in bringing the case to the Dutch court.
All nations, including Russia, must respect the decision taken by JIT on the issue. Any hesitation or even attempt by any nation to stop the effort by JIT should be condemned and punished under the existing international rules.
DR MUZAFFAR SYAH MALLOW, Senior lecturer, Faculty of Syariah and Law, Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia, Nilai, Negri Sembilan.