The news: Dutch prosecutors are launching a new investigation into the crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 — and are now calling the murder of all on board a war crime.
The majority of the victims in the July 17 crash — 193 out of 298 total passengers — were Dutch citizens. To underline just how sobering that number is, Vox outlined that MH17 claimed a bigger share of the Dutch population than 9/11 did in the U.S.
This point has recently been hammered home by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who said the attack on MH17 should be viewed on a par with 9/11 and other tragedies like the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am flight over Lockerbie, Ireland.
“I don’t see any differences from the tragedy 9/11, from the tragedy of Lockerbie and from the tragedy of Grabovo,” the city where Flight MH17 crashed, Poroshenko told CNN Monday.
A war crime is a serious violation of international laws and customs of war. Under the Law of International Crimes, the Netherlands can prosecute any person who commits war crimes against its citizens.
Though a specific individual or organization hasn’t yet been found guilty of shooting down MH17, a Dutch spokesman said that a prosecutor was in Ukraine to aid in the investigation. Prosecution would be severe.
The Dutch have been fierce and outspoken critics in the aftermath of the MH17 crash. They believed that Russia should have assumed more responsibility in controlling rebel forces, who up until today barred international investigators from entering the crash site.
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The global response to the disaster has been largely in line with the outrage voiced by the Netherlands, though few countries have been as active in seeking justice for the attacks. It’s unlikely the Dutch will experience any pushback from their decision to target the act as a war crime. The real test, however, will come when or if the Dutch decide to prosecute anyone in connection to the attack.
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If the Russian government is in fact involved, as many believe them to be, the West will likely be forced to choose a side, pushing a deeper wedge between it and Russia.
This story has been updated.