MH17 – crash site restrictions and ongoing attrition

MH17 – crash site restrictions and ongoing attrition

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Courtesy of OpenStreetMap

All my previous posts about this horrific crash (as well as the subsequent events) can be found here.

Attrition – when used in the context of warfare – is defined as progressively wearing down the opposition. This is all that can be hoped for at the moment as conflict goes on between Ukrainian forces and the separatists exerting their influence in the region surrounding the crash site of the plane that was ‘mistakenly’ shot down. There are constant calls for access and allowing the international community to do a proper investigation. That hasn’t happened yet though and the separatists show no significant signs of weakening.

Not meeting accessibility requirements

As I and many other news sources have previously reported, the separatists controlling much of the Donetsk Oblast region have granted some outside access to the crash site. However, that has been extremely restricted and carefully monitored. As yet, a full international investigation of the area hasn’t been conducted – something which has already been harmed before it’s beginning because of the movement of debris.

Deutsche Welle reports that investigators from Holland and Australia have made repeated attempts at getting to the crash site, but have been prevented from doing that due to ongoing fighting in the region. The conflict was so bad that the investigators had to turn back, even when they were 30km away. For those of you who use old money – that’s 20 miles.

“We are sick and tired of being interrupted by gunfights, despite the fact that we have agreed that there should be a ceasefire [in the area],”

The above is a statement from Alexander Hug, who is the Deputy Head of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). Whilst it’s true that everyone wants an end to the violence, everyone wants that to be on their own terms. The end that he seeks won’t come anytime soon. As I have previously mentioned, no amount of resolutions is going to help either.

Black box analysis

The plane went down due to shrapnel creating holes that caused a dramatic loss of pressure. Well, that’s what the flight recorder data has told the people examining them. The recorders were examined in Britain (in Hampshire, to be more specific). The data will be passed onto international investigators once it has been fully downloaded. It would be nice if they were allowed to conduct an investigation on the ground though – instead of relying on satellite images and highly restricted observations.

A war crime???

Navanetham (‘Navi’) Pillay is the United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights. She was the first woman to start a law practice in the province of Natal, South Africa. She went on to be a lawyer for anti-apartheid activists, an acting judge on the South African High Court and was a judge on the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. It’s fair to say that she knows about the law and world affairs.

Yesterday, there was a report released by her office about the situation in Ukraine. Obviously, she talked about the Malaysia Airlines incident, although it’s worth noting that it happened after the report was completed.

“”The horrendous shooting down of the Malaysian Airlines plane on 17 July came just after the cut-off date of this report,” Pillay said. “This violation of international law, given the prevailing circumstances, may amount to a war crime. It is imperative that a prompt, thorough, effective, independent and impartial investigation be conducted into this event.””

A war crime is serious business – no doubt. She is definitely one of the people who should be able to identify one. With that in mind, why did she say “may amount to a war crime”? Lets look at the definition – provided by the International Criminal Court (first seen on the Red Cross website).

“”…serious violations of the laws and customs applicable in international armed conflict” and “serious violations of the laws and customs applicable in an armed conflict not of an international character””

Conflict between multiple countries led to this? Yes. Is shooting down a plane frowned upon? Yes. Is the action not considered ‘part of a good character’? Yes. So, yeah, it’s definitely a war crime.

Maybe it’s because she thinks that what has been reported so far isn’t enough to convict anyone. Certainly, there has definitely been restricted access to the crash site and delays with the black box. Even though she seems hesitant about making concrete accusations in public, I’m sure she thinks the Russian-supported rebels are to blame. Even though it was supposedly a mistake, the firing of missiles on civilian aircraft is a no-no – a no-no that caused a tragic loss of life.


I’m not the only one to criticise the reaction from Vladimir Putin and the Russian government. They clearly back the rebels, but I can understand why they don’t admit it. That would be admitting involvement in a terrible crime – or series of crimes.

Clearly, there are parties who want to take things further. According to the Independent, British lawyers are preparing a class action lawsuit directed at Putin – effectively suing him. This is being done on the behalf of the families of the victims. This in addition to the sanctions imposed by other countries as a result of the overall conflict – not just the plane crash. It’s obvious that any case such as this is going to take time and won’t be easy in any way. It’s also possible that the families won’t get what they want.

There is still no justice and no end. I assumed it would be like this and I also knew that it would be stating the obvious. It still needs to be said though. There is no easy road to justice in situations like these – not that there’s many which are exactly the same.

I’ll continue to report on any other major developments. I’m interested in anyone’s thoughts about these events. Also, if you have any questions, feel free to ask them. I’ll do my best to answer them.

So, what do you think?

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