Cyber Security and Emerging Threats Defense Diplomatic Relations Samantha Di Santo Security Terrorism

Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 Crash: An Act of Terrorism

The events of Thursday, July 17, 2014 left Malaysian Airlines and the international community in stunned disbelief. This was a second catastrophe for the airline in a matter of months – Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 was shot down and crashed near Hrabove, Eastern Ukraine. The tragic crash killed 289 passengers, including one Canadian.

The international community is hoping that an investigation will confirm whether or not this event was an act of terror. Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has already confirmed that the Australian government is considering designating the MH17 disaster as an act of terrorism. The Dutch embassy even reported that many Russian citizens have deemed their President Putin to be a terrorist, holding signs at a memorial reading suggesting just that. The Dutch embassy in Moscow was turned into a makeshift memorial site, surrounded by grieving Russian citizens. Flowers and lite candles were left at the entrance of the embassy as a way to ask for international forgiveness for the horror that their leader has allegedly caused.

Courtesy of Reuters via International Business Times.

Fingers have been pointed by the global community towards the pro-Russian separatists Rebels of not only shooting down MH17 but for also impeding the investigation and removing evidence. NATO officials have seen evidence of weapons being moved from Russia into Ukraine after the crash of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, raising concern for the possibility of a tampered crime scene. Dutch journalists have expressed their frustration on the whole ordeal in a recent newspaper article, titled “Maat is vol” – Dutch for “Enough is enough”. The Dutch government is calling for action and demanding that NATO take control of the situation at the crash site.

Since the crash, pro-Russian separatists have given international observers only limited access to the crash site. In a statement he gave on Monday, US President Barack Obama accused pro-Russian separatist rebels of tampering with debris from the crash site. He stated his concerns that the rebels have attempted to cover up the crash by tampering with or hauling away debris from the crash site – to which he asks, “what exactly are they trying to hide?”

The debate on who pulled the trigger of the surface-to-air missile that killed all 289 passengers onboard flight MH17 is still ongoing. The Ukrainian government and pro-Russian separatists blame each other for the crash. Although most of the world’s eyes are looking to Russia for an admission of guilt, pro-Russian rebels have repeatedly denied responsibility for the crash. Russian authorities have repeatedly denied any allegations that they are the ones responsible for the crash. They suggest they did not have any motives or desire to bring down a Malaysian aircraft. One might question what the motivation would be for a Russian rebel to bring down a civilian flight. This raises question as to whether the crash was due to error by either the rebel commander or Russian authorities, or outright terrorism.

The highest numbers of the fatalities on flight MH17 were Dutch, resulting in the demand from the Dutch community for answers and the proper handling of their deceased citizens. The world is horrified by the way in which the crash site and those lost in the tragedy have been treated. Days after the crash, bodies of those lost still remain unidentified in what was once a sunflower field.

International anger continued to rise when reports emerged that the crash site and the exposed bodies were being guarded by armed and intoxicated pro-Russian rebels. The deceased have reportedly been dragged around and robbed of both their dignity and possessions. Jewelry and other valuable possessions such as cash and credit cards have been taken from the victims lying in the field of Eastern Ukraine. This unspeakable treatment is raising justifiable questions about the integrity of those trusted to secure the crash site and international crime scene.

The tragedy of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 has touched the world and affected many people internationally. NATO, the United Nations and military organizations worldwide must do more to investigate this international crime and subsequently bring to justice those responsible for the horrific event that was July 17, 2014.

Samantha Di Santo
Samantha Di Santo is a recent graduate from Ryerson University where she received her Bachelor’s Degree. She majored in Criminology and went on to specialize in Security Studies in her fourth year. Her main interests are in international security and counter-terrorism. She is currently interning as a Counter-terrorism Research Analyst at the NATO Association of Canada. Samantha hopes to pursue a career with a focus on international security issues.