The Dutch government is taking Russia to the European Court of Human Rights for its alleged role in the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine six years ago.
A Buk surface-to-air missile, fired from territory controlled by pro-Moscow Ukrainian rebels, destroyed the Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur flight in July 2014.
The Dutch move, announced by the foreign minister on Friday, is intended to support individual cases being brought to the European court by relatives of some of the 298 people who were killed.
“Achieving justice for 298 victims of the downing of Flight MH17 is and will remain the government’s highest priority,” Foreign Minister Stef Blok said. “By taking this step today … we are moving closer to this goal.”
By launching the case against Russia, the Dutch authorities can share evidence with the Strasbourg-based European court so it can be considered in individual relatives’ cases.
“As a government, we have information and evidence that leads us to the conclusion of the involvement of the Russian Federation,” Blok told The Associated Press news agency.
“Of course, the relatives themselves do not have all this information so we can help them by starting this procedure.”
Moscow has repeatedly denied involvement in the downing of the Boeing 777.
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Russia sees Friday’s announcement “in connection with the disaster of the Malaysian Boeing as another blow to Russian-Dutch relations”.
Zakharova said throughout the case, the Netherlands has acted “exclusively within the framework of anti-Russian logic, to which both technical and criminal investigations were subordinated”.
An international team of prosecutors investigating the case has, however, charged three Russians and a Ukrainian with involvement in bringing down the plane and the murder of all on board.
The men are on trial in a Dutch court, although none has been extradited to the Netherlands to face justice.
Blok said much of the evidence the government will submit to the human rights court also is part of that criminal case.
Al Jazeera’s Step Vassen, reporting from Amsterdam, said the move shows the Dutch government is expressing its full support to give justice to those people on board the Malaysia Airlines flight 17.
“Basically what the government is trying to do is to support the individual lawsuits that more than 400 relatives of the passengers onboard have filed at the European Court of Human Rights. It is part of the very broad and wide judicial fight the Netherlands is fighting at the moment to give justice to those people onboard that plane,” She said.
“The relatives of the victims have said that they really want those in the higher ranks, referring to Moscow, probably the Kremlin, to be held responsible.”
Konstantin Kosachev, head of the foreign affairs committee in the upper house of Russia’s parliament, called the Dutch move “a strange initiative from every aspect” in remarks carried by the Interfax news agency.
“The investigation isn’t over yet, there have been no court verdicts on the national level yet and, finally, what does the European Court for Human Rights have to do with it?” Kosachev said.