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Downing of flight MH17 'may amount to a war crime'

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights added that an “effective” investigation is needed.
Jul 28th 2014, 10:25 AM 7,375 82

United States Ukraine Intelligence File photo of a pro-Russian fighter guarding the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 near the village of Hrabove. Source: AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka, File

THE DOWNING OF Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 “may amount to a war crime”, the UN has said, 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.

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.

Sri Lanka UN U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay. Source: AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena

“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.

Some 100,000 people have now fled the conflict zone in the east for other areas of Ukraine, the UN said in the report released Monday.

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.

Dutch and Australian police are making a fresh attempt this morning to reach the crash site, after heavy fighting nearby scuppered their previous effort.

Ukraine Dutch, right, and Australian policemen talk in the city of Donetsk. Source: AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky

The continuing unrest has also led Dutch authorities to conclude that it was unrealistic to send an armed mission to secure the site.

Amid international recriminations over the chaos on the ground blocking access to the site, both sides in Ukraine’s war traded blame, with Kiev accusing the rebels of “destroying evidence” and the insurgents saying Ukraine’s army was targeting civilians.

Washington released new photographs to bolster its claim that Russia, blamed by the West for abetting the insurgency by arming it — including the missile that allegedly shot down MH17, was now taking a direct role in the conflict by firing into Ukraine, targeting the armed forces.

Meanwhile, Russia hit back by demanding the US “stop hindering” the work of monitors trying to check the situation on the ground.

- © AFP, 2014

Read: Australian and Dutch police scrap MH17 site visit over security worries >

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