THE HAGUE – A lawyer for relatives of people killed in the 2014 downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine told a court hearing Thursday that 290 relatives and partners of the victims have filed compensation claims for “emotional distress" against the four suspects charged in the downing.
Lawyer Arlette Schijns was speaking at a preliminary hearing in the long-running legal proceedings against three Russians and a Ukrainian charged with involvement in shooting down the Amsterdam-to-Kuala Lumpur flight on July 17, 2014. All 298 people on board the Boeing 777 were killed.
None of the suspects have appeared in court and the case is proceeding in their absence.
“No compensation can offset the losses suffered by relatives. That said, compensation can provide a feeling of recognition when it comes to moral damage and can also offer a certain feeling of justice,” Schijns told judges.
She said around 90 relatives want to make victim impact statements during the trial, which is expected to begin hearings on the substance of the charges in June.
After a painstaking international investigation spanning years, prosecutors charged four suspects — Russians Igor Girkin, Sergey Dubinskiy and Oleg Pulatov as well as Ukrainian Leonid Kharchenko — with multiple counts of murder for their alleged involvement in shooting down the flight.
Prosecutors say the plane was shattered in mid-air when it was hit by a Buk missile system trucked into Ukraine from a Russian military base. Russia denies any involvement in the downing.
Schijns said the amount of compensation per relative ranged from 40,000-50,000 euros ($48,000-60,000) depending on the relatives' relationship to the victim.
She said under civil law, many relatives are unable to claim compensation, such as siblings who did not live with a victim at the time flight MH-17 was shot down.