The Statute of the International Criminal Tribunal for Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17-An Aborted Take Off

Authors Angelo Dube

ISSN: 2522-3062
Affiliations: Associate Professor, University of South Africa
Source: Comparative and International Law Journal of Southern Africa, The, Volume 51 Issue 3, p. 362 – 379


On 17 July 2014, Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, a civilian aircraft on an international flight was downed whilst overflying the airspace above Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine, leading to the loss of a life for all on board. The flight manifest indicated fifteen crew plus 283 passengers on board. There were eleven affected countries whose nationals perished. The United Nations Security Council swiftly issued a press statement in which it called upon all member states to cooperate with investigations; and to assist in bringing all those responsible to justice. Thus, the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 2166 in 2014. A year later, on Malaysia’s insistence, a draft resolution was tabled before the United Nations Security Council to create a tribunal to punish those responsible for the Flight MH17 disaster. This endeavour failed when the Russian Federation used its veto power to block the draft resolution. Whilst the efforts to give justice to victims of the crash are commendable, there remains some doubt over the efficacy of the piecemeal approach to punishing crimes of international air law, especially given the high politicisation of international law itself. The questions to be answered, therefore are whether current international air law sufficiently provides for the punishment of perpetrators of crimes involving aircraft and whether the veto by Russia impedes or advances the fight against impunity in international air law.