Chişinau / Vienna,
26 July 2014
In a statement issued today, the President of the International Progress Organization, Dr. Hans Koechler, who is presently on a fact-finding visit to Eastern Europe, has called for the establishment of an impartial and independent investigation of the circumstances of the crash of Malaysian Airlines 17 over rebel-controlled territory in Eastern Ukraine. Between 2000 and 2002, Dr. Koechler served as international observer of the criminal trial following the destruction of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. He was nominated by the Secretary-General of the United Nations on the basis of a binding resolution of the UN Security Council.
The former UN observer explained that, because of the ongoing civil war in the eastern part of the country, the Government of Ukraine, itself a party in the conflict, is not only effectively unable to conduct an investigation, but cannot guarantee its independence and objectivity. Under these circumstances, Article 5.1 of Annex 13 ("Aircraft Accident and Incident Investigation") of the Convention on International Civil Aviation - which obliges the "State of Occurrence" to institute an investigation (or to delegate it to another state) - is not applicable.
An investigation has to be international, Dr. Koechler explained, and it must be ensured that no party to the conflict in Ukraine is in a position to influence its outcome. This is also implied in Security Council resolution 2166 (2014), which, in Par. 3, expresses support for "efforts to establish a full, thorough and independent international investigation." Since, in this case, the Security Council has not acted on the basis of Chapter VII of the UN Charter, and has not mandated - but merely "supported" - an investigation, it is up to the countries directly affected by the tragedy to take the necessary measures. This relates to the country of registration of the aircraft, Malaysia, and to the countries whose citizens were killed in this tragedy. For the integrity and credibility of the investigation it will be absolutely essential that it is not politicized, and that officials or experts from countries involved in the political dispute in Ukraine, including from the United States, have no influence, whether direct or indirect, on its conduct. The investigation should be conducted in close co-ordination with the United Nations' International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) whose experts are already on site.
As regards the question of criminal responsibility, Dr. Koechler explained that the Convention for the suppression of unlawful acts against the safety of civil aviation ("Montreal Convention" of 1971) is applicable. According to Article 5(b) of the Convention, Malaysia has jurisdiction in the case.
Dr. Koechler expressed his concern over the information war that is waged in the international media. As long as the facts are not fully ascertained and the collection of forensic evidence has not been completed, commentators should not jump to conclusions. Only a duly constituted court of law will be authorized to attribute guilt. The former UN observer in particular referred to the deletion, by the BBC, of a video report of BBC Russian correspondent Olga Ivshina, on 23 July 2014. In addition to statements about Russian missile launchers, the report included observations of witnesses from the crash site who said that they saw another (military) plane in the vicinity of the Malaysian airliner. The British Broadcasting Corporation will have to explain why it decided to remove that report, which was balanced and did not attribute guilt, from its Russian web site.
In a news release of 23 July 2014 from Glasgow (UK), published in many German newspapers, the German News Agency DPA has warned of the risk of politicization of the investigation into the crash of MH 17 and referred to Hans Koechler's earlier reports on the circumstances surrounding the investigation of the crash of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. In that tragedy, 270 people perished after a midair explosion of the plane en route from London to New York on 20 December 1988. On their web sites, most German newspapers also published links to Dr. Koechler's critical reports on the investigation and criminal prosecution after the Pan Am tragedy.
International Progress Organization