German families to sue Ukraine over MH17 crash

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BERLIN (AP) — German relatives of three people killed in the downing of Malaysia Airline Flight 17 plan to sue Ukraine for negligence, a lawyer for the families said Sunday.

Weekly Bild am Sonntag reported that lawyer Elmar M. Giemulla intends to file a suit at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France, demanding €1 million ($1.29 million) compensation for each victim.

MH17 was shot down July 17 over territory held by pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine, with 298 people killed. A recent report by authorities in the Netherlands, where most of the victims came from, stopped short of blaming any one side.

Giemulla, a Berlin-based specialist in aviation law, argues that Ukraine should have closed its airspace if it couldn't guarantee the security of planes above the conflict zone.

"Since that didn't happen, Ukraine is liable for damages," he told The Associated Press in an email.

Giemulla said other victims' families could join the suit and a separate claim may later be filed against Russia, if sufficient facts are uncovered to prove its involvement.

"For this I'm dependent on the support of Western governments," he said.

Western governments have accused Russia of arming the rebels, though there is no evidence it ordered the plane to be shot down.

While Malaysia Airlines could be faulted for flying over dangerous territory, the company too should be considered a victim, Giemulla said.

He criticized the maximum compensation of 140,000 euros ($180,000) allowed under an international treaty, saying it was intended to prevent airlines from going bankrupt, not protect governments that contribute to such disasters.

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