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Full and transparent international investigation needed into shooting down of commercial airliner
by UN News, agencies
21 July 2014
The United Nations Security Council today called for an international investigation into last week’s downing of a Malaysia Airlines passenger flight in eastern Ukraine, and demanded that armed groups allow unfettered access to the crash site and ensure that its integrity is maintained.
In a unanimously adopted resolution, the 15-member body condemned “in the strongest terms” the downing of flight MH17 on 17 July in Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine, which resulted in the tragic loss of 298 lives.
It supported efforts to establish “a full, thorough and independent international investigation” into the incident in accordance with international civil aviation guidelines.
Council members also insisted on the “dignified, respectful and professional” treatment and recovery of the bodies of the victims.
Further, the Council demanded that the armed groups in control of the crash site and the surrounding area “refrain from any actions that may compromise the integrity of the crash site, including by refraining from destroying, moving or disturbing wreckage, equipment, debris, personal belongings, or remains, and immediately provide safe, secure, full and unrestricted access to the site…”
It also demanded that all military activities, including by armed groups, be immediately ceased in the immediate area surrounding the crash site to allow for security and safety of the international investigation.
The Council also demanded that those responsible for this incident to be held to account and that all States cooperate fully with efforts to establish accountability.
Last week Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman told the Council that while the UN had no independent verification of the circumstances regarding the crash, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was alarmed at “credible, numerous reports” suggesting that a sophisticated surface-to-air missile was used.
The apparent deliberate downing of the flight over eastern Ukraine, he added, highlighted the need for an urgent resumption of a ceasefire and a serious effort to end the ongoing crisis in that country.
“This horrifying incident serves as the starkest reminder of how dire the situation in eastern Ukraine has become – and how it affects countries and families well beyond Ukraine’s borders,” he said in a briefing to the Council.
18 July, 2014
Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine overnight, killing all 298 people on board.
Flight MH17 was en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur when it came down in rebel-held territory near Ukraine"s border with Russia.
Unconfirmed reports say the plane was shot down by a ground-to-air missile.
Professor Marko Pavlyshyn is an expert in Ukraine studies at Monash University. He believes the Malaysia Airlines plane was the victim of mistaken identity.
"I think this has been an attempt to bring down a Ukrainian military plane that has gone terribly wrong," he said.
"Separatist militia in eastern Ukraine have a sophisticated surface-to-air missile system - they bragged about."
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed his condolences following today’s crash of a Malaysia Airlines plane in Ukraine, and called for a full investigation into the disaster.
“I am closely monitoring the reports, along with the International Civil Aviation Organization, a United Nations agency. There is clearly a need for a full and transparent international investigation,” Mr. Ban told reporters at UN Headquarters.
“I strongly condemn this apparently deliberate downing of a civilian aircraft”. “This horrifying incident must at the very least prompt a serious and sustained effort to end the fighting in Ukraine.”
“I offer my deep condolences to the families and loved ones of the victims.”
The Netherlands is a nation in mourning for over 190 Dutch nationals on board flight MH17. It is one of the most devastating air disasters in the country"s history.
Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of UNAIDS:
"My thoughts & prayers to families of those tragically lost on flight MH17. Many passengers were enroute to AIDS2014 here in Melbourne".
Professor Francoise Barre-Sinoussi, the president of the International AIDS Society, speaking to reporters ahead of the Global AIDS conference in Melbourne this weekend.
"It"s a very sad day. In that plane, probably, it was many passengers coming to the Global AIDS conference in Melbourne, including friends, and colleagues," she said.
"It will be a great loss for the HIV-AIDS community, including, our colleague Joep Lange. Joep was a wonderful person. A great professional, but, more than that, a wonderful human being.
"So, if it is confirmed, it will be a terrible loss for all of us. I have no words to try to express my sadness. I feel totally devastated."
* Malaysia Airlines has released an updated statement, which includes a list of the nationalities of those killed in the tragedy, see link below.
MH17 disaster: bringing those responsible to justice, by Ben Saul.
How can those who destroyed a Malaysian Airlines flight over Ukraine be brought to justice? 28 Australians are among the dead.
Reports suggest an anti-aircraft missile was fired by separatist forces involved in the war in Ukraine. If that is the case, the international law of armed conflict governs the incident.
Under the law of war, all fighters have a duty to distinguish between military and civilian objects and not to target civilians. If the militants deliberately targeted the aircraft knowing that it was a civilian plane, then a war crime has been committed.
Those involved may be criminally prosecuted, under the principle of "universal jurisdiction", by any country, including Australia. Australia is a party to the Geneva Conventions and the Statute of the International Criminal Court, and has enacted the relevant legislation to make such crimes triable here.
The situation is more complicated if the militants did not know that the plane was civilian. Some reports suggest, for instance, that the militants may have thought that it was a Ukrainian military plane. In war, the adversary"s military aircraft may be lawfully attacked.
Here another rule is relevant. Military forces must take all feasible precautions to verify that a target is a military one before attacking. The question is then whether the militants took the necessary steps to verify the target, or were too trigger happy.
More evidence is needed about what steps the militants in Ukraine took before a judgment can be made. However, a number of factors should have indicated to the militants that the plane was civilian. It was flying at the cruising altitude of civilian aircraft, and it would have borne the radar signature of a civilian plane. The markings on the plane would not have been visible from the ground, so the militants should have exercised care to investigate further before firing on it. Just because a plane is in the airspace over a war does not make it fair game.
If the militants were reckless in identifying the target, they could still be prosecuted for the war crime of intentionally targeting a civilian object.
While Ukrainian law enforcement is already investigating, this event is of international significance and other countries, particularly those like Australia whose citizens were killed, are likely to want to get involved.
There is a precedent for this. When Libyan agents allegedly destroyed a Pan Am jet over Lockerbie in Scotland in 1988, the United Nations Security Council got involved, forcing Libya to surrender the suspects to stand trial.
Australia could use its current position on the Security Council to request the Council to condemn the attack, pursue an international investigation, and bring to justice the perpetrators.
There are many different forums for a possible prosecution: Ukraine"s courts; the courts of a country like Australia or the Netherlands whose citizens were killed; a referral by the Security Council to the International Criminal Court; or an ad hoc international criminal tribunal, such as that established by the Security Council to prosecute terrorist bombings in Lebanon, or war crimes in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia.
There are many legal options, but all depend on the political will of the international community to cooperate in law enforcement efforts to track down the perpetrators.
* Ben Saul is Professor of International Law at The University of Sydney.

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New Report Shows Educators Are Targeted in Armed Conflict
by Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack
July 14, 2014
Attacks on teachers and other educators are a disturbingly common tactic of war and a serious threat to education, the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack (GCPEA) said in a new study released today, Protecting Education Personnel from Targeted Attack in Conflict-Affected Countries. The report describes how teachers have been targeted around the world and documents various ways communities have tried to keep them safe.
“On Malala Day, we should also remember the courage of teachers like Malala’s father, who too often place their lives at risk simply by going to work and doing their job,” said Diya Nijhowne, GCPEA’s director. “Attacks on teachers strike at the very heart of a community, and more must be done to protect them.”
Malala Day – July 14 – celebrates the courage of Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani schoolgirl and education activist shot by the Taliban in 2012 for her work to promote girls’ education.
The report draws from interviews with global practitioners, documents from international and local organizations, and field research in the Philippines. It highlights the devastating impact of violence against educators on the education system. Attacks can deplete the teaching force, as teachers and professors are intimidated, injured, killed, or forced to flee. In the longer term, they can exacerbate teacher shortages, disrupt education and employment cycles, and impact a country’s development.
“In many places, there is already a significant gap between the number of trained teachers and the demand for education,” said Nijhowne. “When low pay is compounded with the risk of attacks, there is little incentive to enter and stay in the teaching profession, weakening the education system even further.”
Teachers Targeted in at least 23 Countries since 2009
Over the last five years, teachers and other education staff have been targeted for assassination, killed, injured, tortured, detained, extorted, and harassed in areas of conflict and instability in at least 23 countries, according to Education under Attack 2014. In Nigeria, where the militant group Boko Haram abducted almost 300 schoolgirls exactly three months ago, the President of the National Union of Teachers reported that the group had also killed 171 teachers since 2009.
The motives for attacks vary. Some educators face threats because of their classroom activities: they refuse to allow armed parties to recruit children from schools, they teach girls, or their lessons include particular topics and not others. Others are targeted because of their ethnicity, their association with the government or a warring party, their political activities, or because they engage in education-related advocacy.
In the Philippines, for example, education personnel are required to serve as poll workers during elections, resulting in an upsurge in attacks on teachers during voting periods. Ahead of 2010 elections in Maguindanao, unidentified gunmen assassinated a principal and a teacher at an elementary school that is regularly used as a polling station. Teachers in the Philippines also experienced harassment and attacks when schools were used by armed parties for military purposes, such as barracks and camps, despite national laws prohibiting this practice.
Protecting Teachers from Attack
Educators who face attacks require more protection, GCPEA said. The new report examines measures taken to protect teachers, including: arming teachers, using armed and unarmed civilian guards, setting up community protection committees, relocating and transferring teachers, negotiating with belligerent parties to keep schools and teachers off-limits, and monitoring and reporting attacks. Some of these measures bring their own risks. Armed guards in southern Thailand, for example, themselves became the targets of attack, putting in the line of fire the very teachers they were hired to protect.
The report also assesses strategies to prevent attacks in the long term, including increasing accountability and ending impunity for attacks, enacting protective legislation and policy, and developing conflict-sensitive education programs and policies. Teachers’ unions and human rights groups in Colombia and Zimbabwe, for example, have taken perpetrators to court for attacks against teachers, with some successes in Colombia.
Finally, the report offers guidance to practitioners and policymakers on what they can do to help improve teachers’ security.
“Teachers play a crucial role in enlightening and inspiring the next generation of leaders like Malala,” said Nijhowne. “For the sake of their children, their societies, and their future, it is imperative that States galvanize efforts and resources to keep teachers safe.”

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