Foreign ministers from the Netherlands and Australia, the two countries accounting for the largest loss of life in last Thursday’s shooting down of the Boeing 777, led the way in pledging that those responsible would be tracked down and brought to justice for the deaths of the 298 passengers and crew.
Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans, in a sometimes emotional speech, said the staggering loss of life “has left a hole in the heart of the Dutch nation.”
“It has caused grief, anger and despair. Grief for the loss of loved ones, anger for the outrage of the downing of a civilian airplane and despair after witnessing the excruciatingly slow process of securing the crash site and recovering the remains of the victims.”
Timmermans cited reports that some bodies had been looted.
“Just for one minute – I’m not addressing you as representatives of your countries, but as husbands and wives, fathers and mothers – just imagine that you first get the news that your husband was killed, and then within two or three days you see images of some thug removing the wedding band from their hands,” he said.
U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power told the council that while “almost everyone” had condemned the behavior of the armed men who have been trampling the crash site, “there is one party from which we have heard too little condemnation – and that is Russia.”
“We welcome Russia’s support for today’s resolution,” Power said. “But no resolution would have been necessary had Russia used its leverage with the separatists on Thursday, getting them to lay down their arms and leave the site to international experts. Or on Friday. Or on Saturday. Or even yesterday.”
“It turns out that only this morning – coincidentally, the very morning this Security Council was meeting to discuss the investigation – did President Putin finally issue a public call to ensure the security of international experts.”
Churkin did not take kindly to Powers’ words, saying, “there’s no need to turn discussion of a tragedy into a farce.”
Churkin used his address to the council to criticize Ukraine, and raised claims put forward by the Russian Defense Ministry earlier suggesting that Ukraine, not the separatists, shot down the aircraft, and that Ukraine has been doctoring evidence in a bid to implicate the rebels.
The council unanimously adopted a resolution condemning the downing of flight MH17 “in the strongest terms,” and calling for a “full, thorough and independent international investigation.” Russian U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin raised his hand along with the other 14 members.
The resolution insisted on the “dignified, respectful and professional” treatment and recovery of victims’ bodies, demanded that armed groups at the crash site “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.”
The resolution also called for the perpetrators to be held to account and for all member-states to cooperate fully in that regard.
Bodies to be flown to Amsterdam
Those aboard the flight, a scheduled service from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, came from 10 countries, 193 from the Netherlands alone – one of whom had dual Dutch-U.S. citizen.
The pro-Russian rebels on Tuesday finally handed over victims’ bodies and the “black box” data recorders.
Malaysian Prime Najib Razak announced in Kuala Lumpur earlier that an agreement on repatriation of the bodies had been reached with Alexander Borodai, the separatist leader who calls himself the head of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic.
He said the remains would be moved by train to Kharkiv, where they would be handed over to Dutch representatives and flown to Amsterdam on board a Dutch C130 Hercules, accompanied by members of a Malaysian recovery team.