Flight MH17: Justice for the International Victims of Putin’s Aggression
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Flight MH17: Justice for the International Victims of Putin’s Aggression
8th November 2022 @ 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm
On 17th July 2014, Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine, killing all 298 passengers and crew on board, including 10 Britons. Speculation over those responsible for the downing of the plane erupted immediately, pointing to the Russian military and the Donetsk People’s Republic, while the Kremlin media, officials and social media began a campaign to implicate Ukrainian forces.
From 2014 to 2016, the investigative team at Bellingcat identified the Bug surface-to-air missile system that struck the plane as belonging to the Russian Federation’s 53rd Anti-Aircraft Missile Brigade based in Kursk. The system was transferred to the Russian-backed separatists and fired from a location not under the control of Ukrainian forces. Subsequent investigations by independent media corroborated the Bellingcat evidence.
The investigation of the Public Prosecution Service of the Dutch Ministry of Justice, together with the joint investigative team involving the Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, Ukraine and Malaysia collected a body of evidence against four individuals identified as responsible for the incident and led to hearings at the District Court of The Hague. The decision of this court is expected on 17th of November 2022.
The Henry Jackson Society invites to you an event that follows the path of the case against those involved in the downing of the MH17 flight. The panel will discuss the strength of the case against the accused as well as the wider impact of the case on countering Russian aggression.
Jonathan Gimblett was a member of the British Diplomatic Service for 15 years before training as a lawyer in Washington DC and subsequently joining Covington & Burling LLP, where he has been a partner since 2012. His practice focuses on international law, including state-to-state disputes, investor claims against host states, and commercial arbitration. He is particularly active on legal issues arising from the Russian Federation’s aggression against Ukraine, including representing Ukraine before the International Court of Justice in two cases arising respectively from Russia’s conduct in Crimea and Donbas since 2014 and Russia’s wide-ranging invasion of Ukraine in 2022. Jonathan relocated from Washington DC to Covington’s London office in 2019.
Eliot Higgins is the founder of Bellingcat, a multi-award winning investigative collective focused on online open-source investigation.
Higgins is currently creative director of Bellingcat’s investigative arm, Stichting Bellingcat, and director of Bellingcat’s production company, Bellingcat Productions BV.
Higgins first came to prominence during the early stages of the conflict in Syria, when he started blogging about open-source images being shared online from the conflict. Early successes included identifying the types of munitions being used by the Syrian Air Force, including cluster munitions and improvised “barrel bombs”, identifying arms being smuggled to Syrian armed opposition groups by Saudi Arabia through Jordan, and investigating the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government.
As interest in Higgins’ work and open-source investigation grew, Higgins launched Bellingcat in 2014, a new website intended to provide a place for readers to learn how to do their own open source investigations, and to contribute their own investigative work to the website.
Bellingcat was launched with funding raised through Kickstarter, and quickly became known internationally thanks to the work of its community on the downing on Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 (MH17) on July 17th 2014, ultimately identifying the missile launcher that shot down MH17 as originating from Russia’s 53rd air defence brigade.
Over the years Bellingcat has expanded from a single staff member and a team of volunteers to a Netherlands based NGO employing 30 staff members from across the world, working on a wide range of topics. Bellingcat’s work has led the way in developing the use of online open source investigation in a wide variety of fields, from journalism to justice and accountability, and is widely recognised as a leader in the development of online open source investigation.
In 2021 Higgins published the Sunday Times best-seller, We Are Bellingcat, about the work of Bellingcat and the development of the field of online open-source investigation.
Dr Marnie Howlett is a Departmental Lecturer in Russian and East European Politics at the University of Oxford. She holds a PhD in International Relations from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), a MA in Political Science, and a BA (High Honours) in International Studies from the University of Saskatchewan.
Dr Howlett’s research lies at the nexus of geopolitics, cartography, borders, and nationalism within the former Soviet Union, particularly Ukraine. She has conducted extensive fieldwork in the country analyzing the role of borders in shaping grassroots dynamics. Since the beginning of the Russia-Ukraine war, she has been working on several projects related to Ukrainian nation-building, including running two public opinion surveys in the country. Her main research interests also include the use of and ethics around qualitative methods for political science research.
Dr Stepan Stepanenko received his BA (Hons) and MA by research from the University of York and went on to complete a PhD at Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes of Paris Sciences et Lettres with a focus on Ukraine. In his academic career Stepan presented at a multitude of academic conferences and authored publications in peer reviewed journals, individually and in collaboration. He is also currently an Associate Member of the CNRS UMR 8167.
In British politics, Stepan has worked with the Conservative Party, running for election in the London Borough of Barnet in 2014 and co-founding the Conservative Friends of Ukraine in 2021. He continues to work on cross party humanitarian projects with a focus on Ukraine.
The Henry Jackson Society was pleased to welcome Eliot Higgins, Jonathan Gimblett and Dr Marnie Howlett for a discussion on the significance of flight MH17, justice for victims and the flight’s international impact in countering Russian aggression. Dr Stepan Stepanenko began the discussion by introducing the speakers. Eliot Higgins outlined the role of Bellingcat in understanding flight MH17 and highlighted the importance of the flight in leading to the growth of the open-source community, whilst emphasising the positive impact of this in the current war in Ukraine. Jonathan Gimblett proceeded to discuss the hope for accountability from a legal standpoint, explaining the limitations of international law yet emphasising that with determination, international mechanisms can be used to pursue justice. Dr Marnie Howlett then discussed why flight MH17 and Russian aggression at the time was not marked as significantly as it should have been in the international community, whilst outlining the reasons behind this. Finally, the speakers answered questions on accountability, pre-empting trolls’ conspiracy theories to win the court of public opinion and on tips in understanding the aforementioned events among different Russian narratives.
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