GUILTY MUST PAY
IN the fields of Ukraine, where one of the greatest crimes of this century remains unprosecuted, there is some hope to salvage from the scene.
Reflecting a year on from the disaster, the man who became Australia’s special envoy to the Ukraine, former air chief marshal Angus Houston, says he believes those who shot down Malaysia Airlines MH17 will be identified and face justice.
The first task assigned to Sir Angus – of ensuring no effort was spared to identify, recover and repatriate all retrievable remains of the 38 Australian citizens or residents aboard – has been accomplished.
No Australian remains unaccounted for, and only two of the 298 passengers and crew murdered on July 17 have not been identified after painstaking forensic work.
Sir Angus’s second task was to ensure, to Australia’s satisfaction, that the loss of the 777 was fully investigated to international standards and a criminal investigation initiated.
That, he says, was to find who was responsible for “this dreadful outrage and to bring them to justice”.
Sir Angus, who was appointed to oversee Australia’s response to the still- unresolved disappearance of MH370 off WA in early March last year, found a very different set of circumstances in the Ukraine.
The eastern part of the country was, and still is, a war zone, meaning the Dutch- led recovery mission – heavily supported by Australian Federal Police and Defence personnel temporarily sworn into the AFP – was vexed from the start.
MH17 was shot from the skies, likely by a separatistfired, Russian- supplied SA11 ( BUK) surface- to- air missile, in what was probably a case of rebels – who are fighting to break from the Ukraine – mistaking it for a Ukrainian military plane.
Sir Angus is certain MH17 was shot down by a surface- toair missile.
“The preliminary report said the fuselage was penetrated by a large number of highenergy objects from outside the aircraft,” he said.
“The sort of missile systems in the vicinity of the crash site would fit that description.”
Sir Angus is hopeful those responsible will be brought to account.
“I hope we are able to do that,” he says.
“It’s incredibly challenging but it’s a robust investigation ( involving Holland, Australia, Belgium, Malaysia and the Ukraine) and hopefully we will get to the bottom of it.”
Small Dutch recovery teams returned to the site twice after the 200- plus Australian investigators left last August, gathering more remains and plane parts.
There is seen to be no further need to return, unless it involves speaking to witnesses or perhaps detaining those responsible.
of course, is that the guilty have long since slipped back across into Russia, which as the likely supplier of the SA11 missile system involved has its reasons for protecting them.
But people in the wider separatist movement – and, it is thought, investigators – know who did it.
Even if they are tried in absentia, the full story of MH17 will one day be told.
CRIME SCENE: Ukrainian rescue workers inspect part of the wreckage of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 on July 20 last year.
Sir Angus Houston.