Sentences handed down in MH17 trial

Eight years after 298 people died when Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 was shot down, a verdict has been handed down in Amsterdam. Two Russian citizens and one Ukrainian received life sentences and must pay 16 million euros in compensation. They were accused of transporting a Buk air defence system from Russia to eastern Ukraine and using it to down the Malaysian jet. Commentators see the judgment as a landmark decision.

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Vladimir Fesenko (UA) /

Also punish those who give the orders

Further steps must follow after the Amsterdam judgment, political scientist Vladimir Fesenko stresses in a Facebook post:

“The guilty verdict stands for the need to punish all war criminals in the current war. In any case, a necessary precedent has been set. Now the next decisive step must be taken. It is not enough to pass sentence on the perpetrators. Above all the masterminds of these atrocities, those who gave the orders for this criminal war and the massive shelling of peaceful cities must be punished.”

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (DE) /

Bring today's crimes to justice

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung sees the judgment as a call for action:

“The trial on the shooting down of MH17 should provide impetus for beginning with the legal processing of the current atrocities. ... In view of the scale of the crimes, there is nothing to be said against setting up a special international tribunal before the fighting ends with the aim of documenting the facts and initiating the first proceedings against known perpetrators. This would greatly increase the chances that they will actually pay for their crimes one day.”

Süddeutsche Zeitung (DE) /

A triumph for the rule of law

The truth has triumphed thanks to perseverance and fairness, the Süddeutsche Zeitung comments with approval:

“The Kremlin merely presented 'alternative facts' with the sole aim of destroying the obvious truth, sowing doubt and causing annoyance. ... There is only one adequate means to counter this perfidious strategy: a trustworthy, independent judiciary, with all its tenacity. And the fairness to acquit one of the accused, who was only very indirectly involved in shooting down the aircraft. For the rule of law - and, it must be said, also for the liberal West - this verdict is a triumph. The truth has won.”

De Volkskrant (NL) /

A fitting response to a barbaric act

This was an exemplary trial, says De Volkskrant:

“With this trial the rule of law has countered the barbarity to which 298 people fell victim. ... The decency and perserverance of the constitutional state made more of an impression than the lies and unconscionability of the perpetrators. The acquittal of one of the accused adds to the value of the trial. ... For the relatives, this was an important part, if not the conclusion, of the process of coming to terms with the tragedy. Meanwhile, an estimated 2000 kilometres east of the Netherlands, the war for which the shooting down of MH17 was only the first act is still raging.”

De Standaard (BE) /

Trail leading to Russia has been confirmed

Even chains of command cannot protect against conviction, De Standaard notes:

“For the perpetrators, it is now clear that they cannot escape conviction even in such a complex attack as this one involving an obscure chain of command. Then there is the value of the verdict at the international level. Russia denied that it played any role in the war in Ukraine in 2014 - its version was that the eastern separatists acted on their own initiative. With the conviction of the two Russians, this link has now been formally exposed. Against the background of the blatant Russian invasion, the verdict on MH17 is relevant.”

Tages-Anzeiger (CH) /

Putin belongs in the dock

Russia's war of extermination against Ukraine didn't start just nine months ago but long before, the Tages-Anzeiger stresses:

“The war began at the latest with the Russian annexation of Crimea in spring 2014, and with Moscow's support for the mercenaries in eastern Ukraine. ... The court in Amsterdam has now dispelled any doubts that the mercenaries in eastern Ukraine are armed and controlled by Moscow. ... Two of the convicts are hiding in Russia and will not have to serve their prison sentences, the third is allegedly fighting against Ukraine. In any case, Vladimir Putin should have been on trial in Amsterdam. Without his war against Ukraine, the passengers on board flight MH17 could still be alive today.”