A Hands On Experience: Tampering with the MH17 Flight Evidence

by / 0 Comments / 73 View / July 24, 2014

A few days ago, another Malaysian Airplane entered our sound waves and newsfeeds. While on one side of the world Israelis and Palestinians are seeing increased violence, Asia continues to see turmoil. A few days ago, Malaysian Airplane MH17 was downed by pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine, near the Russian border. Among those lost were several experts heading to an international AIDS conference when the plane fell. In total, 298 passengers were lost: 189 from the Netherlands, 44 from Malaysia, 27 from Australia, 12 from Indonesia, nine from the UK, four from Germany, four from Belgium, three from Philippines, one from New Zealand, and one from Canada (Resnick).

It is unfortunate that lives were lost in this disaster. It is even worse that much of the remains and evidence from this disaster will not be analyzed. After the plane crashed, it wasn’t forensics experts or government officials who arrived at the scene first. It was locals, armed with unclean hands, cameras, and even water guns at some times (McCoy). While they did contaminate many of the remains (already causing a headache for any forensics experts), the tampering with the evidence has gone to greater lengths. Unfortunately, those who arrived at the scene were also pro-Russian separatists, who promptly began to remove the black box and the bodies.

According to observers, Ukranian rebels were seen removing bodies from the crash site, but not to be given to experts or government agencies. Rather, they were moved to a train. Even though the carriages are refrigerated, the possession of the bodies lies with the rebels at the moment (Whitlock). Even worse, the black box that could contain vital information about the plane was also taken by the rebels, though they have promised to hand it over to a world aviation body (Karmanau). Nonetheless, the rebels will have had access to vital information, and may use that to their advantage.

This would most likely be the case because it would seem that the shooting down of the flight was an accident. Military and civilian planes are able to transmit signals that differentiate between each plane; so either the rebels detected the signal and deliberately shot down the plane, or they had the knowledge on using the radars but couldn’t differentiate between signals. The latter is a more plausible option, because it would not only be unwise, but generally unhelpful for the rebels to shoot down a commercial plane (Fung).

Whether they meant to shoot it down matters not. The fact that many of these rebels have actively barred Ukranian authorities from entering the crash site (McCoy) means that, even if they are hiding nothing, they are engaging in something. Perhaps distorting the evidence? Maybe ridding themselves of some sort of guilt? This unfortunately seems to evoke the memory of the 1994 bombing of the Argentine Jewish Mutual Association (AMIA), during which said building was destroyed by a bombing that killed 85 people and injured about 300. Right after the attack, many citizens began trampling over the site, taking pieces of the rubble as souvenirs. Much of the information that could have been used to find the culprits was lost, and it has taken 18 years to finally convict people who were considered guilty. In fact, as then-president Nestor Kirchner said, the investigations were a national disgrace.

Just like with the AMIA bombing, valuable evidence has most likely been lost. And while in the Malaysian Flight situation we know (or probably know) who the culprits are, we might be missing out on very important information.


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Fung, Brian. “Did the Ukrainian Rebels Even Know They Were Shooting at a Civilian Aircraft?” Washington Post. The Washington Post, 18 July 2014. Web. 21 July 2014. <http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-switch/wp/2014/07/18/did-the-ukrainian-rebels-even-know-they-were-shooting-at-a-civilian-aircraft/>.

Gaebler, Emilee. “Argentina Takes Steps Forward, 18 Years Later Ex-President Menem to Stand Trial for Cover-Up in AMIA Bombing.” Impunity Watch. Impunity Watch, 7 Apr. 2014. Web. 21 July 2014. <http://impunitywatch.com/argentina-takes-steps-forward-18-years-later-ex-president-menem-to-stand-trial-for-cover-up-in-amia-bombing/>.

Karmanau, Yuras. “Rebels Find Malaysian Plane’s Black Boxes, Promise to Hand Them over to World Aviation body.” Canadacom. Postmedia Network, 20 July 2014. Web. 21 July 2014. <http://o.canada.com/news/plane-crash-black-box-487113>.

McCoy, Terrence. “The Investigation into the Malaysian Airliner Is Already Compromised.” Washington Post. The Washington Post, 18 July 2014. Web. 21 July 2014. <http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2014/07/18/how-the-investigation-into-the-crashed-malaysian-airliner-may-already-be-contaminated/>.

Resnick, Brian. “What You Need to Know About the Malaysian Plane Crash in Ukraine.” Www.nationaljournal.com. National Journal Group, 17 July 2014. Web. 21 July 2014. <http://www.nationaljournal.com/tech/reports-of-a-malaysian-airline-crash-near-russia-ukraine-border-20140717>.

Whitlock, Craig, and Michael Birnbaum. “Flight 17: U.S. Builds Case against Rebels, Russia in Downing of Jet in Ukraine.” Washington Post. The Washington Post, 20 July 2014. Web. 21 July 2014. <http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/pro-russian-separatists-removed-bodies-from-crash-site-officials-and-observers-say/2014/07/20/be7bc2c4-0ff8-11e4-9285-4243a40ddc97_story.html>.