The families of the nearly 300 victims of a downed Malaysia Airlines passenger plane want reparations, their lawyers said Monday, more than six years after the plane was shot down over Ukraine.
All 298 passengers and crew on board MH17 were killed on July 17, 2014, when the plane was allegedly shot down by a Buk missile fired from territory in eastern Ukraine, then claimed by pro-Russia rebels. About two-thirds of the victims were Dutch. The Boeing 777 was flying to Kuala Lumpur from Amsterdam.
Russians Igor Girkin, Sergey Dubinskiy and Oleg Pulatov, and Ukrainian Leonid Kharchenko, were named as suspects in 2019 after a multiyear Dutch-led international investigation. The four men are being tried for murder, though only Pulatov has legal representation in the trial.
Peter Langstraat, who represents 450 relatives of the victims, said that 76 relatives wanted to make victim impact statements, and 316 said they planned to seek damages, reported Reuters.
The reparations are unspecified, and the claims have not yet been filed. Lawyers representing the families asked the court to decide whether Dutch or Ukrainian law will be applied in seeking damages.
"This is about individuals who were confronted six years ago with a terrible loss that continues to have an influence on their lives today," said Arlette Schijns, who also represents 450 relatives, according to The Associated Press.
"The criminal trial is important for them because it will establish the facts of what happened on July 17, 2014. Who is responsible for it? What sentence they deserve," Schijns said. "In other words, it's about justice, fairness, crime and punishment."
The international investigation, conducted by representatives from Australia, Belgium, Ukraine, Malaysia and the Netherlands, found that the missile used to shoot down MH17 came from Russia’s Kursk-based 53rd Anti-Aircraft Missile Brigade.
Russia has repeatedly denied any involvement. Prosecutors said “obstruction and disinformation” by Russian authorities adds to the pain for the victims’ relatives.
"We're talking here about people of flesh and blood. In addition to the grief they face because of the loss of their dearest, they are additionally injured by Russia's attitude," Schijns told judges.
The trial, which began in March, resumed in absentia of the suspects, who remain at large. Russia does not extradite its citizens. Three judges from The Hague District Court are presiding over the trial, which is being conducted at the Schiphol Judicial Complex near Amsterdam.
The trial is set to continue Sept. 28.