Russia continues to advance its status as a pariah state, vetoing on July 29 the United Nations Security Council resolution to establish an international tribune to prosecute those responsible for killing 298 people aboard Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 last year.
It amounts to clear obstruction of justice, which is evidence of guilt, and there is plenty of evidence implicating Russia in supplying people and equipment, namely the surface-to-air missile, that struck down the civilian jetliner in July 2014. Russia’s veto complicates the search for justice, but doesn’t end it. The veto should also prompt international soul-searching about how to main effective security in a world in which one veto-carrying member covers up its own crimes. There were plenty of great speeches given on July 29, including by Malaysia’s Minister of Transport Liow Tong Lai, who said that the international tribunal, of which Russia would be a part, is the best way to ensure a “depoliticized investigation.” He also said that “regardless of who the perpetrators were, we want to make sure the arm of justice will reach them and there will not be impunity” and that “we will not stop here and we will never give up.”
The other U.N. members saw Russia’s attempt for what it was: a desperate bid to evade responsibility. Its U.N. envoy, Vitaly Churkin, looks increasingly pathetic in trying to kick sand in everyone’s eyes by shifting the blame to Ukraine, the victim of Russia’s war. The representative from Israel and others had it right when they described the attack as one on the entire world – since anyone could have been a victim. The Israeli envoy said that the attack may have been designed that way – to instill fear in civilians going about their routine business.
“If you are afraid of the truth,” Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin said of Russia. “You are definitely on the wrong side – you are alone here.”
The Australian representative said that “we must ensure this never happens again.”
That is the challenge for the international community, but it’s not clear that it is up to the task. One way is to more severely sanction Russia and stop with business as usual. Another way is to advance the global Magnitsky Act, named after the murdered Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, to increasingly ensure that human rights abusers – in business, military and government – feel the bite of sanctions, travel bans and criminal cases.
More can be done in areas where Russia has no veto.