Push for international tribunal to probe Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 incident

A man places flowers outside the Dutch embassy to commemorate the victims of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 plane crash a year ago in Kiev, Ukraine, July 17, 2015.
PHOTO: Reuters

KUALA LUMPUR - As cries for justice grow louder over the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, Malaysia is adamant in pushing for a resolution at the UN Security Council for an international criminal tribunal to probe the incident and punish the cuplrits.

Much of the world is behind Malaysia, with the four other countries in the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) - the Netherlands, Australia, Belgium and Ukraine - also taking the stand that only an international tribunal will be able to ensure justice.

The United States, Britain and France also want the responsible parties to be brought before such a tribunal while UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has said that the victims must be honoured by a collective effort to ascertain the truth over the incident.

However, Russia, a veto power-wielding permanent member of the Security Council, strongly opposes the draft resolution, describing it as "premature and counter-productive".

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said last week that the country would wait for the final results of the investigation into the MH17 crash, scheduled to be released in October, before launching initiatives to create a tribunal.

The Boeing 777 aircraft was downed over the territory held by pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine a year ago. All 298 people on MH17 - the majority of them Dutch - were killed.

Kiev and the West have pointed fingers at the Russian separatists, saying they might have used a BUK surface-to-air missile supplied by Russia to shoot down the plane.

Moscow has denied any involvement and accused Ukraine's military instead.

It is learnt that the resolution, initially scheduled to be tabled on Wednesday, is being re-worked due to the Kremlin's resistance.

The Russian position is that a thorough and objective international investigation should be completed before the countries decide how to punish those guilty of the crime.

The burden of pushing through the resolution rests solely with Malaysia because it is the only JIT member which sits on the current UN Security Council.

Malaysia was elected to a two-year term last October, and took its non-permanent seat in January.

"Malaysia and the JIT are of the view that an international criminal tribunal is the best mechanism to deal with this heinous crime.

"We are confident of getting the numbers in support of the resolution, although the Russian veto stands in the way," said a diplomatic official.

He said Russia had come up with its own draft resolution and the challenge now was to find "any common ground" in it.

The official said only an international tribunal by the Security Council would provide a high degree of legitimacy and maximise the prospects of international co-operation for the criminal justice process.

Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman has spoken to his Australian counterpart Julie Bishop on the latest diplomatic push for the resolution at the Security Council.