Explanation of Vote on a UN Security Council Resolution on MH17
U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations
New York, NY
July 29, 2015
Thank you, Mr. President, and thank you to all the ministers who have traveled to New York for this important session.
Shuba Jaya and her husband, Paul Goes, were flying back home from the Netherlands, where they had brought their one-year-old daughter, Kaela, to meet Paul’s parents for the first time.
Nick Norris was bringing his three grandkids – Mo, age 12; Evie, 10; and Otis, 8 – back to Perth from a family vacation, so that the children’s parents could have a few days of holiday to themselves.
Tambi Jiee and Ariza Ghazalee were moving back to Malaysia after more than two years of living abroad. With them were their sons, Muhammad Afif, Muhammad Afzal, and Muhammad Afruz, age 19, 17, and 13, and their daughter, Marsha Azmeena, age 15.
All of these families were on Malaysian Airlines Flight 17. All of them are gone.
Among the 298 people on board were students and teachers, florists and flight attendants, entrepreneurs and restaurateurs, an aerospace engineer and a supermarket cashier. Some eighty of the passengers were children. Their loss is immeasurable.
The loss is felt by generations of students of 72-year-old Sister Philomene Tiernan – a member of the Society of Sacred Heart, a religious order devoted primarily to advancing girls’ education. Sister Phil, as her students knew her, was returning home after visiting the church in France where the remains of the religious order’s founder are buried.
The loss is felt among people who may never have met the victims, but whose lives were touched – and at times permanently altered – by their work.
Victims like Joep Lange and partner Jacqueline van Tongeren, who were among the passengers headed to the 20th International AIDS Conference. Joep was a renowned researcher who helped make anti-retroviral treatments cheaper for people who otherwise could not afford them; Jaqueline worked for an NGO that promotes health solutions for poor communities.
And victims like Willem Witteveen, who was not only a deeply-respected scholar of the law and political theory, but also a dedicated public servant, having served for nearly a decade as a Dutch senator.
But the loss of the 298 individuals is, of course, felt most profoundly by their families.
Dora Shahila Kassim was the lead flight attendant and a single mother. She’d worked hard to ensure her 16-year-old daughter Diyana had every opportunity. “She was not just my mother but my father, my best friend,” Diyana said. “I don’t know how I am going to live without her.”
Silene and Rob Fredriksz’ 23-year-old son, Bryce Fredriksz, was on the flight with his girlfriend, 20-year-old Daisy Oehlers. The young couple lived with Bryce’s parents. Since July 17, 2014, Bryce’s parents have left the room just as Bryce and Daisy left it – with the bed unmade, and clothes strewn around the floor. Silene cannot bring herself to touch it; the space, she said, still “breathes” Bryce and Daisy.
This could have happened to any of our families. Our sons or daughters, our mothers or fathers or grandparents, or aunts and uncles – any of them could have been on that flight. So could our teachers, our colleagues, our neighbors. Our best friends.
The passengers on that flight came from eighteen nations, including my own, but they could have come from any of our countries. And in that way, the families of the 298 passengers, and the communities and nations they belonged to, they are all of our families.
The United States believes firmly that those who carried out this unspeakable crime cannot remain unnamed and unpunished. So when the Netherlands, Malaysia, Australia, Belgium, and Ukraine put forward this resolution, we supported their efforts. Of course, justice by itself will not fill the profound void left behind with the loss of those on Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. But efforts to deny justice only intensify the pain of the victims’ families, who have already endured more than any of us can fathom. That was the effect when Russian-backed separatists prevented investigators from gaining full and timely access to the crash site; it was the effect of Russia’s refusal even to negotiate this resolution and statute, essentially preventing any meaningful negotiation of those texts from taking place; and it is the effect of Russia’s veto today.
By vetoing this resolution, Russia has tried to deny justice to the 298 victims on that plane, and deny their families a chance to hold accountable those responsible. Russia has callously disregarded the public outcry in the grieving nations, the appeals of the families affected.
It is tragic that Russia has used the privilege entrusted to it in order to advance international peace and security in order to frustrate international peace and security.
But let us be clear: today’s veto cannot – and will not – deny the victims and their families justice. There cannot and will not be impunity for those who downed a civilian airliner with 298 people aboard. Because when justice is denied for those 298 individuals and their families and their communities, it is denied for all of our families and our communities – and all of our nations. So while we are outraged and gravely disappointed by the outcome of this vote, today we say to those families: No veto will stand in the way of this heinous crime being investigated and prosecuted. And no veto will weaken our unshakeable commitment to you – to ensure that you and your loved ones have the justice that you deserve.