Malaysia tells UN Security Council of push for MH17 tribunal

Monday, 13 July 2015 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Reuters: Malaysia told the United Nations Security Council on Thursday (2 July) it plans to push for a UN-backed tribunal to prosecute those suspected of downing a passenger airliner last year in eastern Ukraine, though Russia described the move as premature, diplomats said.

Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was shot down in July last year with 298 passengers on board, two-thirds of them Dutch. It crashed in territory held by Russian-backed separatists.

Ukraine and Western countries accuse the rebels of shooting it down with a Russian-made missile. Russia has rejected accusations it supplied the rebels with SA-11 Buk anti-aircraft missile systems.

“Malaysia briefed the council members this morning of their intention to present a resolution in relation to MH17,” said New Zealand’s UN Ambassador Gerard van Bohemen, President of the UN Security Council for July.

“They are seeking to find a mechanism to deal with criminal accountability in relation to the downing of the aircraft,” he said, adding that it is a joint proposal by Malaysia, Australia, the Netherlands, Belgium and Ukraine.

Diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Russia described the proposal as premature and believed the council should wait for the results of other investigations. Russia’s UN mission declined to comment to Reuters on the proposal.

Russia is a veto-wielding power on the 15-member council, along with France, Britain, China and the United States, and therefore has the option of blocking the proposal if it is put to a vote.

The Netherlands has taken the lead in an a multinational investigation into the crash. Malaysia, Australia, Belgium and Ukraine are also part of the joint inquiry.

Russian investigators have also been looking into the crash.

“I expect that issue to be the subject of quite intensive consultations in the course of the coming months,” van Bohemen told reporters.

He said Malaysia had not yet circulated a draft resolution.

Germanwings offers emotional damage payments to crash victims’ families

Reuters: Germanwings is offering 25,000 euros ($ 27,958) compensation payments to close relatives of those killed in the March 24 plane crash for their pain and suffering, it said.

Evidence shows co-pilot Andreas Lubitz locked the captain out of the cockpit of Germanwings flight 4U9525 from Barcelona to Duesseldorf and deliberately steered the plane into a remote mountainside, killing all 150 onboard.

The 25,000 euros payouts are on top of 50,000 euros already paid as immediate financial assistance to relatives. German law does not usually provide for a separate award for pain and suffering, unlike in the United States.

Germanwings, a unit of Lufthansa, said on Tuesday it wished to treat everyone fairly, although one lawyer said the offer was not sufficient.

The damages payout for emotional distress will be made to parents, widowed spouses, partners and children of the victims and does not require proof of damages incurred to be presented in order for the payout to be made, it said.

Relatives living in Germany may also claim an additional 10,000 euros each as compensation for any health problems without needing to offer formal proof, the company said.

Families of the victims still have the right to make further claims for other financial costs, such as burial costs or lost pensions, although this will require proof of damages incurred.

A lawyer representing some of the German victims, Elmar Giemulla, described the offer as ‘completely inadequate’, noting pilots’ strikes last year had cost Lufthansa around 200 million euros while the offer of 25,000 euros for the relatives would cost the airline around 7.5 million.

Lufthansa said in response it had looked at similar cases and its offer went beyond those.