Downing of flight MH17 ‘may amount to a war crime’: UN
Dutch and Australian forensic investigators on their way to the MH17 crash site turned back on Monday after “explosions” heard in the area
The downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 “may amount to a war crime”, the UN said on Monday, adding that fighting in east Ukraine has claimed over 1,100 lives with both government and rebel forces using heavy weaponry in built-up areas.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay condemned the “horrendous shooting down” of the Malaysian passenger jet in rebel-held territory that killed all 298 people on board, and demanded a “thorough, effective, independent and impartial investigation”.
“This violation of international law, given the prevailing circumstances, may amount to a war crime,” she said in a statement.
“Every effort will be made to ensure that anyone committing serious violations of international law including war crimes will be brought to justice, no matter who they are,” Pillay said.
The Red Cross officially said last week that Ukraine is now in civil war – a classification that would make parties in the conflict liable to prosecution for war crimes.
The UN said that latest figures showed that more than 1,100 people have been killed in fighting on the ground in east Ukraine as both government forces and rebels have increasingly used heavy weapons in built-up areas.
“As of 26 July, at least 1,129 people have been killed and 3,442 wounded,” the UN statement said.
The latest toll marks a sharp rise from that given a month ago on June 18, when the UN said at least 356 people had been killed since April.
Pillay described reports of increasingly intense fighting in rebel bastions Donetsk and Lugansk regions as “extremely alarming” and said both sides were “employing heavy weaponry in built-up areas, including artillery, tanks, rockets and missiles.”
“Both sides must take great care to prevent more civilians from being killed or injured,” Pillay said.
The report also accused rebels controlling swathes of territory of conducting a brutal “reign of terror” in the areas they control, including the abduction, torture and killing of civilians as the rule of law has collapsed.
“These groups have taken control of Ukrainian territory and inflicted on the populations a reign of intimidation and terror to maintain their position of control,” the report said.
Investigators turn back from crash site as blasts heard
Dutch and Australian forensic investigators on their way to the MH17 crash site turned back on Monday after “explosions” in the area, a government spokeswoman in The Hague said.
“They have returned in the direction of Donetsk,” justice ministry spokeswoman Sentina van der Meer said. “Explosions were heard, and they were warned by the locals.”
The Ukrainian military earlier said its forces were battling pro-Russian rebels for control of several eastern Ukrainian towns around the crash site of the downed Malaysia Airlines plane.
Ukrainian troops “had entered” the towns of Shakhtarsk and Torez and “battles were continuing for the complete liberation” of the towns of Pervomaysk and Snizhne, the press office for the military operation against the insurgents said.
A joint Dutch and Australian forensics team had left from rebel stronghold Donetsk early Monday in a fresh bid to reach the crash site, where some remains of victims remain exposed to the elements.
A visit Sunday was cancelled after heavy bombardments rocked towns nearby.