On Thursday we heard the first reports that a Malaysian Airlines plane had crashed in the Ukraine, followed by even more disturbing news that the cause of the disaster was likely a surface-to-air missile. This was sad (and worrisome) enough, but what has followed has been even harder to believe: pro-Russian separatists have purposely made it difficult for investigators to reach the site of the crash, the bodies of the victims were left to lie where they fell in an open field, and there appeared to be evidence of looting at the site by local people.
Meanwhile the New York Times reported this morning that there are large
groups of volunteers picking their way through the wreckage,
potentially destroying or removing key pieces of evidence which may be
vital to any investigation. And there are reports that the rebels have
moved the bodies to another location, also under separatist control.
families and friends of those who perished it is a personal tragedy. For
investigators, the global aviation community, governments whose
citizens were killed, and the flying public, any delay in the
investigation leaves unanswered important questions. This
situation is also intolerable when it comes to the profound lack of respect
to being shown to the victims themselves.
To leave their bodies out in the open,
exposed to the elements and the gawking stares of local curiosity
seekers, is morally repugnant. It is not something that civilized
people do. The world needs to hear this not only from officials and
commentators in the West, but from Vladimir Putin. If Putin has any
influence with the rebels - and there is considerable evidence that he
does - he should use that influence to quickly resolve issues around
access to the crash site by properly trained investigators and the
repatriation of the bodies of the victims.
Whatever the precise sequence of events which led to this disaster, the
world needs to put pressure on Russia to move much more swiftly when it
comes to dealing with this air disaster. Whatever Putin might hope to achieve geopolitical with his support for pro-Russia separatists in Eastern Europe, there is a clear moral imperative here to repatriate the bodies of the victims as quickly as possible. It's the least he can do.
Copyright Daniel E. Levenson 2014.