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ABC Far North, Breakfast

Senator the Hon Amanda Stoker


Subjects: Initiation of legal proceedings against Russia over downing of MH17

KIER SHOREY: So as I mentioned, Australia and the Netherlands have initiated legal proceedings against Russia for the downing of flight MH17. All 298 people on board the plane, which included 38 Australia citizens and residents, died when a Russian-made missile hit the plane back in 2014. Both Australia and the Netherlands have maintained that Russia was responsible under international law for the attack and they've initiated legal proceedings against the Federation in the International Civil Aviation Organisation. We have Senator Amanda Stoker with us right now. Good morning, Senator.

AMANDA STOKER: Good morning.

KIER SHOREY: Considering what's happening in Ukraine at the moment, will these legal proceedings phase Russia, do you think?

AMANDA STOKER: It's difficult for us to get in the mind of Russia. What we do know, though, is that we have been trying to get a negotiated resolution to the question of accountability for what happened to MH17 since March 2018. We've been trying to get Russia to come back to the negotiating table to get a fair outcome here, something that's mutually acceptable for Australia, the Netherlands, and something that reflects the Russian Federation's responsibility here. They have withdrawn from those negotiations; they've rejected our subsequent attempts to get them back to the negotiating table. So we have to conclude that we need to take the next escalation in the process of getting a result for, particularly those 38 Australians who died as a consequence of these actions.

Now, Russia, as we know, are taking some pretty extreme and quite frankly unacceptable steps in relation to the Ukraine. We know they have disrespected international law in that forum. But we are a country that holds to the rule of law. We care about a rules-based international order, and so we will exhaust all legal and proper processes that are available to us before we start to look beyond that.

KIER SHOREY: Senator, what are those processes legally? It's the International Civil Aviation Organisation that it's going through- the complaint is going towards. What are they, and what is the complaint specifically?

AMANDA STOKER: The International Civil Aviation Organisation is a specialist arm of the International Court of Justice in The Hague. So it's a place where any nation can go in order to get an enforcement of international law as it relates to civil aviation. Now, that process is a lengthy one – it's part of the reason why, you know, it's so far down the track since the event that we are now finding ourselves in this position. We've had a long process of assembling all the evidence and so forth, and getting all of the preliminary steps completed that are needed to be able to go to the International Civil Aviation Organisation. But-

KIER SHOREY: What does that evidence show, Senator? This is about the missile system belonging to the Russian Federation?

AMANDA STOKER: Sure. Let me- there are six things that we are confident we can, with the Netherlands, prove in that forum. First, we believe we can show that flight MH17 was shot down by a Russian Buk TELAR surface-to-air missile system. Second, that the missile system was transported from Russia to an agricultural field in the east of Ukraine on the morning of 17 July 2014, which was an area at the time under the control of Russian-backed separatists. The third thing we believe we can show is that the missile system belonged to the Russian Federation's 53rd Anti-Aircraft Military Brigade, and that it was accompanied by a trained Russian military crew. Fourth, we believe we can show that from the launch site, the Buk TELAR fired the missile that shot down flight MH17 – of course, killing all of the 298 people on board. Fifth, that the missile could only have been fired by the trained Russian crew, or at least by someone acting under their instruction directional control. And finally, that that very missile system was returned to the Russian Federation shortly after the downing of flight MH17, which we will argue, with the Netherlands, indicates that this was an action that the Russian Federation knew about, ordered, and must, as a consequence, accept responsibility for.

And what we want to see happen is an acknowledgement of responsibility, steps taken, commitments made to make sure this doesn't happen again, and compensation for all of those people who have suffered greatly as a consequence, and the families that have been left behind as they passed.

KIER SHOREY: Senator, thank you so much for your time. Just finally, what's the timeframe? I know it's going to take a long time for it to go through the process, but what's the timeframe for it being lodged with the ICAO?

AMANDA STOKER: It's being lodged as we speak, imminently, and so the lodgement will be swift. But the wheels of international law do turn slower than we would like, and so it may be a little bit of time before we get a result. But we are determined to pursue this to its very end, because the families of, particularly those 38 Australians, deserve no less than justice in this case.

KIER SHOREY: Senator Amanda Stoker, thank you so much for your time.


KIER SHOREY: There's Senator Amanda Stoker, talking about that legal action that it's been lodged by Australia and the Netherlands with the ICAO regarding the downing of MH17.