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W&L International Law Expert Examines Russia’s Responsibility for Downed Malaysia Flight (Video)

The world is still reeling from last week’s tragic downing of Malaysia Flight 17 over Ukraine, allegedly by pro-Russian separatists.

Washington and Lee law professor and international law expert Mark Drumbl says the incident raises some serious questions for international law, such as whether Russia can be held responsible for the activities of the pro-Russian militia in Ukraine. Under international law, a state may be responsible for the conduct of actors, such as rebel groups, operating outside of the state.

“The state is on hook if it has ‘effective control’ over those groups,” says Drumbl. “Nicaragua filed such a claim against the U.S. in the 1980’s for the conduct of the contra rebels. The issue also arose in the 1990 with Milosevic’s support of Bosnian Serbs. Proof will depend on whether, and to what extent, the Russian state has financed, trained, supported, and supervised these rebels in Ukraine.”

Drumbl says there are situations where those responsible could be charged with war crimes or even crimes against humanity. And it is unclear which international mechanisms could be used to achieve justice in the case.

About Mark Drumbl

Mark Drumbl is the Class of 1975 Alumni Professor at Washington and Lee University School of Law, where he also serves as Director of the University’s Transnational Law Institute. He is the author of two acclaimed books on international military conflict, “Reimagining Child Soldiers in International Law and Policy” and “Atrocity, Punishment, and International Law.”

Prof. Drumbl’s research and teaching interests include public international law, global environmental governance, international criminal law, post-conflict justice, and transnational legal process. His work has been relied upon by the Supreme Court of Canada, the United Kingdom High Court, United States Federal Court, and the Supreme Court of New York in recent decisions.