Text of interview (translation from Russian) by Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the United Nations Ambassador Vitaly Churkin to “TASS” and “RIA-Novosti” news agencies on the idea to create an International Tribunal for the downing of Malaysian Boeing
Q.: It was announced that Malaysia submitted to the Security Council a draft resolution aimed at establishing an international tribunal in connection with the downing of Malaysian airlines “Boeing” over Ukraine in July 2014. Have you seen the text?
Amb.Churkin: The text has not been formally submitted yet to the UN Security Council. But when I had a meeting with ambassadors from Malaysia and the Netherlands the other day the drafts resolution and Statute of the International Tribunal were handed over to us.
Q.: What is your evaluation of this initiative? Is it acceptable?
Amb.Churkin: I’ll be candid with you. Though I heard of it beforehand I was surprised by the “swing” of the authors that goes far beyond reasonable. Resolution 2166 that was adopted right after the crash demands that “those responsible for this incident be held to account” but this task should be addressed with a pragmatic and efficient approach taking into account positive and negative experience that we have. Piling up structures would only harm the mission.
I’d like to recall that when civilian aircraft perished before no international tribunals were ever created, sometimes there were no trials at all. When an American plane fell on the territory of Scotland due to a terrorist attack (Lockerbie case) nobody raised an issue of creating an international tribunal, though the UN Security Council adopted several resolutions on this matter. The trial was held in the Netherlands under the law of Scotland.
As a ground for their initiative the authors invoke ICTR and ICTY, but one cannot even remotely compare the conflict in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda genocide with the downing of a civilian plane over Ukraine. Besides the reference to the ICTY looks like a counter-argument. The Yugoslavian tribunal is notorious for its bureaucracy and clumsiness. It goes on for over 20 years causing numerous complaints.
The authors of the current idea depict the crash of Boeing as “threat to international peace and security” (thus putting it under Chapter VII of the UN Charter). But, as lawyers point out, a single act cannot be qualified this way. That’s why the UN Security Council has nothing to do here. Moreover, no such definition can be found in UNSC resolution 2166, and it’s not right to introduce it in retrospect.
There is one more paradox in the current situation. Resolution 2166 underlines the necessity to conduct “a full, thorough and independent international investigation into the incident“ with the crucial role of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). This provision was introduced in the resolution under Russian insistence. In reality the parties concerned chose not to comply with this key provision. “Technical” investigation was undertaken by the Netherlands. I hear sometimes that the Russian experts take part in the investigation. This is an exaggeration to say the least. Our experts were informed from time to time about the process. While the criminal investigation is strictly secret among the parties concerned.
So, the parties evaded an international investigation but raise the question of an International Tribunal. Where is logic? Besides the Statute of the Tribunal is composed in a manner that it could deal not only with “Boeing case” but with anything else that would have any link to it. Unfortunately, it seems that this is an attempt to organize a huge political show which only damages efforts to find the perpetrators.
Q.: Does the Russian side plan to introduce any amendments to the drafts?
Amb.Churkin: Personally, I can see no prospects for these documents. We should put them aside and await results of the investigation and then think how the court proceedings could be efficiently organized.