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After today's events, there is a lot of speculation that Flight MH17 was brought down by surface to air weapons.

Witnesses appear to have heard the loud explosions before the flight crashed, and whilst obviously unfounded for the time being, reports claim that the only parties who would have been in a position to facilitate this would be Separatist forces: whom it's almost unanimously agreed are being supplied with equipment by the Russian state.

It's most likely that, if it was shot down, it was shot down by mistake: however, how culpable will the Russian state be if this is revealed to be the case? Would they be held accountable for this act, and would they have committed a war crime?

Is their rhetoric and political distancing from separatists enough to legally grant immunity, or will their supplying the weapons used implicate them directly in a 'terrorist' act?

  • Many countries around the world use American and Russian weapons. The Presidents of US and Russia don't approve each and every weapon deployment. For example, ISIS terrorists carry many American weapons, should we blame Obama? The only way to blame Russia directly is if the Russian Government and/or Putin directly approved of such weapons to be sent. – maverick Jul 21 '14 at 4:30
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    The more evidence that comes out the more it seems that it was not the russian backed separatists but rather the russian army themselves that shot down the airliner... And still there will be no serious repercussions. – SoylentGray Jul 21 '14 at 13:23
  • @Movos, well compartmentalization infers differently: otherwise no head of state is culpable for the effects of their decisions. They are entirely complicit in the process, which is why we hold them accountable. The statement you make is quite redundant here. – John Smith Optional Jul 21 '14 at 20:38
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The Russian state is unlikely to carry any legal responsibility for this. There will probably be diplomatic repercussions, but that is purely speculation at this point. There are two reasons for this:

Firstly, it would be very hard to prove that the plane was shot down with Russian hardware. The Buk system has been around since the 1970s, and is fielded by many armies around the world including Ukraine. There is simply no practical way to ascertain which exact launcher was used. The system could have been, for example, captured by the separatists from the Ukrainian army.

Secondly, this is not the first time that a passenger airliner is mistakenly shot down. Iran Air 655, for example, was shot down by the USA in 1988. Although there was a financial settlement, the United States has never admitted to the "mistake", and never formally apologized. This precedent would probably carry over to flight MH17. Wikipedia article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iran_Air_655.

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    IA655 was not shot down by mistake. It was shot down in response to its appearance of an attempt to use it as a weapon against US forces. That has always been the position of the US. Wether or not that explanation is valid or not it was not a mistake. It was a decision that may or may not have been a poor one. – SoylentGray Jul 18 '14 at 14:03
  • So there is a precident for this then? Fascinating. Could you possibly provide further details, including anything that might be pertinent to this case?+1 – John Smith Optional Jul 18 '14 at 14:07
  • @Chad Obviously these things happen in the "fog of war", and can be broadly justified as part of the military effort. I doubt that US forces intentionally wanted to destroy an airliner. – MrFox Jul 18 '14 at 14:07
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    @Chad I read some wikipedia "According to the United States Government, the crew incorrectly identified the Iranian Airbus A300 as an attacking F-14 Tomcat fighter " - that sounds like a mistake to me. – MrFox Jul 18 '14 at 14:12
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    @John Smith Optional there is another precedent, the Siberia Airlines Flight 1812 in 2001 who travelled from Tel Aviv to Novosibirsk. It was shot down by the Ukrainian military during a training. – Anixx Jul 21 '14 at 3:52
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How accountable?

Nohow. It isn't news for anyone in the world. Everyone knew it, everyone knows it.

Anyway, that SA-11 Gadfly drived back to Russia few days ago.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/russian/international/2014/07/140721_tr_buk_video_avakov_mh17.shtml

It is impossible to proove it, but everyone understands that it is true.

Right after the shot terrorists started proudly writing that they wave shooted Ukrainian AN-26. That, after some time they understood that it was not AN-26. They were trying to find weapon between bodies. And then they finally understood what they did.

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There has been a ruling by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on a similar case which suggests that Russia cannot be held accountable for war crimes, even if it is proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Russian financing, organising, training, supplying and equipping of the rebels played a decisive role in the conflict and that the rebels commited many war crimes.

However, later judgements by the Yugoslavia Tribunal and the International Criminal Court suggests that Rusia may be held responsible to some degree for war crimes committed by rebels it supports. But in that case you would first have to prove that war crimes were actually committed by the rebels, accidentally shooting down a civilian planes has never before been considered to be a war crime.

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