The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) is examining on Wednesday four complaints filed against Russia by Ukraine for operations carried out since February 2022 and in 2014 in the Donbass, and by the Netherlands for the destruction of flight MH17 in July 2014.

These complaints will be studied in a hearing by the 17 judges of the Grand Chamber, the most solemn formation of the institution which sits in Strasbourg.  

Twenty-six states, including almost all members of the European Union, were authorized to intervene in the procedure and submit written observations, as well as various NGOs.  

Conversely, no representatives of the Russian government should be present. If the country was expelled from the court in September 2022 as a result of the aggression against Ukraine that began a few months earlier, it remains responsible for violations of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights committed before that date.

“Since the exit, Russia has not followed up on any cases, does not respond to observations and practices the empty chair policy,” underlines a source within the ECHR.  

The office of the judge elected in respect of Russia having ended, a magistrate of another nationality, appointed by the court, will sit in his place.

A third complaint concerns “the alleged abduction of three groups of children” in the summer of 2014 and their temporary transfer to Russia.

“The main objective of tomorrow’s hearing is to demonstrate to the Court and the world the extent and volume of the serious systematic human rights violations committed by Russia against all persons on the territory of Ukraine,” Marharyta Sokorenko of the Ukrainian Justice Ministry told AFP, referring to an “unprecedented” hearing.

The latest request was filed by the Netherlands after the destruction, on July 17, 2014, of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, which departed from Amsterdam for Malaysia and was shot down by a Russian-made missile in the Donetsk region, Donbass, causing 298 casualties.

“I hope that the Grand Chamber will judge that Russia is responsible for the destruction of flight MH17,” Piet Ploeg, who lost his brother, sister-in-law and nephew in the disaster, and presides, told AFP. the association of victims’ relatives “Stichting Vliegramp MH17”. He denounced “the denial, indifference and disinformation” orchestrated by Moscow since the tragedy.

In November 2022, a Dutch court sentenced, in their absence, three men – two Russians and a Ukrainian – to life imprisonment for the explosion of flight MH17.

Three other complaints from Ukraine and 7,500 individual applications following the Russian aggression that began in February 2022 are pending before the ECHR.