July 3, 2015 / 1:50 PM / 3 years ago

Dutch seek U.N. tribunal to prosecute downing of Malaysian plane

THE HAGUE (Reuters) - The Dutch government is lobbying its political allies for the establishment of a U.N. tribunal to prosecute suspects in the downing of a Malaysia Airlines plane over territory held by pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine a year ago, Prime Minister Mark Rutte said on Friday.

Members of a group of international experts inspect wreckage at the site where the downed Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 crashed, near the village of Hrabove (Grabovo) in Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine August 1, 2014. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin

Rutte said a U.N. tribunal would give “the best guarantee of cooperation from all countries” in seeking justice for the families of the 298 victims, most of whom were Dutch passengers aboard flight MH17.

Malaysia, one of five countries on a Dutch-led Joint Investigation Team probing the crash, told the United Nations Security Council on Thursday it plans to push for a U.N.-backed tribunal, even as Russia described the move as premature, diplomats said.

“No route is 100 percent perfect, but this is the route that is by far the most preferred,” Rutte said after a weekly meeting with his centre-right cabinet.

“We also have plan Bs if this approach doesn’t work, both national and international, but this is the route that would be the best. And that’s why we are exploring that possibility first of all.”

Rutte’s comments confirmed a report by Reuters last month that the Netherlands was seeking to establish such a tribunal.

He declined to comment on where the court might be located or how it important it would be for Russia, which has a veto on the U.N. Security Council, to cooperate.

Russia denies involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine, where pro-Russian rebels are fighting Ukrainian government forces. Moscow has suggested MH17 was downed by a Ukrainian fighter jet and denied a widely supported theory that the rebels shot it out of the sky with a Russian-supplied BUK missile.

The Netherlands is leading the criminal investigation, which is also assisted by Belgium, Australia and Ukraine. A final report on the cause of the crash is due to be released in October by the Dutch Safety Board.

Reporting by Toby Sterling and Thomas Escritt; Editing by Mark Trevelyan

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