The Hague District Court has found three people guilty in the high-profile case of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17, which was downed amid hostilities in the east of Ukraine in 2014. Russia criticized the Dutch-led investigation and prosecution as not fully objective.
One of the men accused was acquitted due to lack of evidence, but three were sentenced to life in prison, in partly due to their “detestable” attitude towards the trial, Judge Hendrik Steenhuis said. All four were tried in absentia.
The prosecutors had made a compelling case proving that the four defendants were involved in the downing of the aircraft, the court announced during proceedings at the Schiphol Judicial Complex (JCS) in the Dutch town of Badhoevedorp. The trial started in March 2020, with charges of murder and destruction of a civilian aircraft leveled against the defendants.
The court said it didn’t believe that the accused individuals had intended to shoot down a civilian aircraft, believing instead that they were firing at a military target, but that their actions were criminal nevertheless. Steenhuis noted that it was impossible to tell who actually gave the order to fire the missile.
The judge also said the three men found guilty will be liable for more than 16 million euros in compensatory damages to the victims’ families. This would be regulated by Ukrainian rather than Dutch law, except for the provision excluding same-sex partners from eligibility, he added.
The Malaysian Airlines flight was shot down as it flew over eastern Ukraine in July 2014. All 298 people on board were killed. The incident took place at a time when Ukrainian government forces were engaged in fierce battles against rebels who opposed the outcome of an armed coup in Kiev.
Two of the regions in eastern Ukraine eventually declared independence and formed the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics, which, together with two other former Ukrainian regions, ended up being accepted into Russia after referendums earlier this year. The two nations are currently engaged in large-scale hostilities.