MH17 victims' families to sue Ukraine

BERLIN - The families of German victims of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 - which went down in Ukraine - plan to sue the country and its President, Petro Poroshenko, for manslaughter by negligence in 298 cases, the lawyer representing them said yesterday.

Professor of aviation law Elmar Giemulla, who is representing three families of German victims, said that under international law, Ukraine should have closed its airspace if it could not guarantee the safety of flights.

"Each state is responsible for the security of its airspace," Prof Giemulla said in a statement e-mailed to Reuters.

"If it is not able to do so temporarily, it must close its airspace. As that did not happen, Ukraine is liable for the damages."

The Bild Am Sonntag Sunday newspaper quoted Prof Giemulla as saying that, by not closing its airspace, Ukraine had accepted that the lives of hundreds of innocent people would be "annihilated" and this was a violation of human rights.

The jetliner crashed in Ukraine in pro-Russian rebel-held territory on July 17, killing 298 people, two-thirds of them from the Netherlands.

Four Germans died in the crash.

Ukraine and Western countries have accused the rebels of shooting the plane down with an advanced Russian-made missile.

Russia has rejected accusations that it supplied the rebels with SA-11 Buk anti-aircraft missile systems.

Prof Giemulla plans to hand his case to the European Court of Human Rights in about two weeks.

He would also push for compensation of up to 1 million euros (S$1.6 million) per victim, Bild Am Sonntag reported.

So far, the airline has offered relatives of each victim US$5,000 (S$6,300) in financial assistance, but said that would not be taken off the final compensation or affect families' legal rights to claims.