MH17 crash tribunal would 'extend Dutch-led investigation indefinitely’

© Shamil Zhumatov
Malaysia and the Netherlands are putting the cart before the horse by proposing to set up a tribunal on the MH17 Malaysia plane crash before obtaining the results of the international investigation, Alexander Mercouris, International Affairs Editor at Russia Insider told RT.

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RT: There has been a proposal to create a tribunal on the basis of a UN Chapter dealing with global threats. But is that appropriate in the case of MH17?

Alexander Mercouris: First of all, it’s not the UN that is proposing this; it is two countries that propose it: Malaysia and the Netherlands, which have been undertaking the investigation. Is it appropriate? It has never been done before. There have been many cases where there have been airplane crashes. The Security Council has never involved itself by setting up a tribunal to try those responsible. The Security Council is concerned with threats to international security, not with setting up criminal courts. I would say it was not appropriate.

RT: The results of the Dutch-led investigation into MH17 are yet to be seen.  So with the Joint Investigation Team still working, why insist on a tribunal now? Russia's envoy to the UN said on Monday that UN tribunals had been far from productive in the past.  Is that a fair point?

AM: That is a very good question to which of course we don’t have a very clear answer. The Russian government and the Russian ambassador of the UN Mr. Churkin have made precisely that point. They said: Why set up a tribunal or even talk about setting up a tribunal before we know what the results of the international investigation are? It is a case of putting the cart, as they say, before the horse. First we wait the results of the investigation, which we are expecting around October, then we look at what kind of tribunal there is. The concern must be that what is actually happening is that that report is not going to be very conclusive. Those who are now talking about setting up a tribunal are trying to use that device just to extend the investigation indefinitely.

Members of the United Nations Security Council observe a moment of silence for the victims of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 at the United Nations headquarters in New York July 18, 2014. © Lucas Jackson

RT: If this tribunal's initiated now, would it be a negative effect on the official investigation?

AM: It would be, because it would prejudge what that investigation is going to say. It would imply for example that there is an international crime that is being committed. When as at this moment in time we have no information from the report that says that. 

RT: We've heard expert opinion that this tribunal might be biased and that it might be politicized.  Do you agree?

AM: One has to look here at those cases when tribunals were set up. There was the one on Yugoslavia; there have been various other ones that have been set up on an ad hoc basis. I think it is fair to say that outside the Western world they have been controversial, and that there is a widespread perception that they have been biased and that they followed the Western political agendas. One has to worry that the same thing would happen here.

RT: Moscow has also made clear that it will veto the resolution.  So why then insist on the voting?

AM: We’re not yet sure that they will insist on it. But if they do insist on it, when Russia has made it very clear that they will veto it. The only purpose presumably would be to make a kind of political point or rather perhaps I should say to make a propaganda point, because that’s what it would amount to. It would be a way of showing that Russia is obstructing the setting up of the enquiry, and certain people in the West, in the media, and Western governments would try to spin that to mean what they wanted it to mean.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.