Daily News Roundup

June 20, 2019

Thursday, June 20

Three Russians and a Ukrainian will be charged with murder and placed on international wanted lists over the downing of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, which killed 298 people, including 38 Australians in 2014.

The Joint Investigations Team (JIT) named Russians Igor Girkin, Sergei Dubinsky and Oleg Poelatov  as well as Ukrainian Leonid Kharchenko, who will be prosecuted by Dutch authorities in March next year.

The Russian suspects have military and intelligence backgrounds.

The Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 was travelling over territory in eastern Ukraine held by pro-Russia separatists in July 2014 when it was shot down by a BUK surface-to-air missile.

Chief prosecutor Fred Westerbeke said all four suspects were responsible for bringing the BUK-M1 missile launcher into a field in Pervomaisky, eastern Ukraine, where the missile was fired from.

He said all four who are believed to be living in Russia and Ukraine, will be subject to international arrest warrants and placed on international wanted lists.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry said the “absolutely hollow claims” from the JIT that Russian servicemen were involved in the downing of MH17 were unfounded, while the former leader of the Donetsk People’s Republic has labelled the investigation team biased.

“Once again, absolutely groundless accusations are being made against the Russian side, aimed at discrediting the Russian Federation in the eyes of the international community,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Dutch police chief Wilbert Paulissen said a request to extradite the suspects will not be made as both the Russian and Ukrainian constitutions do not allow their nationals to be extradited for criminal trials.

Instead, investigators said the suspects will be tried in absentia when the trial starts at The Hague on March 9, 2020.

Mr Westerbeke said investigators established Russia had a role in the tragedy because they made available the missile that was used to shoot down MH17.

“The Russian Federation has not disclosed anything that happened and that is a slap in the face for all the relatives of the victims, and I call out to them to start cooperating,” Mr Westerbeke said.

“We have proof that the Russian Federation is involved in this tragedy, in this crime, in one way or the other.

“One day after July 17 [2014], they could have been in a position to tell us exactly what happened, and they didn’t give us this information.

“I would not call this cooperation.”

Mr Westerbeke said the three Russian suspects have military and intelligence backgrounds — Mr Girkin, 48, is a former colonel in the Federal Security Service (FSB), Mr Dubinskiy, 56, was employed by the Russian Military Intelligence Service, and 52-year-old Mr Pulatov is a former soldier with Russia’s Spetznaz special forces, also known as the GRU.

Ukrainian Mr Kharchenko, 47, has no military background, Mr Westerbeke said.

While the JIT accuses the four suspects of being responsible for bringing the missile launcher into the area, it still has not identified those responsible for firing the actual missile that brought the jetliner down.

“We still think it is feasible that we will come up with more evidence and more suspects,” Mr Paulissen said.

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An Australian council has proposed the roll out of see-through recycling wheelie bins as part of a plan to enforce better practices on residents by making them feel embarrassed.

Adelaide councillors suggested transparent bins would have the two-pronged effect of making people feel “rubbish shame” if they used their bins incorrectly, as well as making it easier for people to fossick in bins for cans they wish to exchange at bottle depots, according to Adelaide Now.

Adelaide City Councillor Robert Simms said the see-through bins would ensure Adelaide remained a leader in recycling.

South Australia first implemented a container deposit scheme in 1977, which has slowly spread to other states and territories.

It was adopted in the NT in 2012, in NSW in 2017 and the ACT and QLD in 2018. WA will implement its own scheme in 2020, as will Tasmania in 2022.

“If we want to encourage behavioural change, I think this is something that will really encourage people to do the right thing … and we have a reputation as a clean, green city,” Mr Simms told Adelaide Now. “In a way, it is kind of naming and shaming.”

He also said having transparent bins would be helpful to people fishing for cans and bottles to recycle for 10c a pop as part of the state’s container deposit scheme.

Mr Simms’ call for transparent bins was backed by fellow Adelaide City councillor Alex Hyde, who said, “I agree with Rob’s idea, and we should rubbish shame people.”

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An independent UN human rights expert investigating the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi has recommended an investigation into the possible role of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, citing “credible evidence”.

The 101-page report released by Agnes Callamard into the October, 2019, killing of Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul calls on UN bodies or secretary-general Antonio Guterres to “demand” a follow-up criminal investigation.

Ms Callamard noted the “extreme sensitivity” of considering the criminal responsibility of the Crown Prince, as well as Saud al-Qahtani, a senior adviser to the Saudi royal court who has not been charged.

“No conclusion is made as to guilt,” she wrote of the two men.

“The only conclusion made is that there is credible evidence meriting further investigation, by a proper authority, as to whether the threshold of criminal responsibility has been met.”

She wrote there was “no reason why sanctions should not be applied against the Crown Prince and his personal assets” — noting sanction regimes had been put in place in the past even before guilt was determined.

But she played down the focus on a single person, writing: “The search for justice and accountability is not singularly dependent on finding a ‘smoking gun’ or the person holding it.”

Adel Aljubeir, Saudi Arabia’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, dismissed the UN’s findings, tweeting there was “nothing new”.

“The report of the rapporteur contains clear contradictions and baseless allegations challenging her credibility,” he said in a Twitter thread.

Ms Callamard wrote that her focus was mainly on identifying those who may have failed in or abused their positions of authority.

Eleven people are on trial in Saudi Arabia in largely secret proceedings, and five could face the death penalty.

That trial should be suspended, she said, citing concerns over secret hearings and a potential miscarriage of justice.

Mr Aljubeir said in a later statement published by state news agency SPA the report contained “false accusations confirmed as stemming from Callamard’s preconceived ideas and positions towards the kingdom”, and said Riyadh retained the right to take legal action in response to its claims.

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