ICAO clarifies position after MH17 report

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Malaysia Airlines MH17 reconstruction

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has clarified the legal framework governing roles and responsibilities in civil aviation after what it felt were misinterpretations following the Dutch Safety Board’s MH17 Final Report.

The Dutch Safety Board released its report on 13 October, where it concluded a BUK missile shot down the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200 in Ukrainian airspace, which should have been closed to civilian aircraft. The aircraft was flying from Amsterdam Airport Schiphol to Kuala Lumpur International Airport on 17 July 2014 when it was downed over the disputed Donetsk region of Ukraine.

ICAO says under the Convention on International Civil Aviation states maintain sovereign authority over their airspace, which includes responsibility to issue risk advisories to any threat to civil aircraft, including armed conflict. The agency says states have the authority to close airspace when safety threats warrant it. Airline and aircraft operators are responsible for assessing airspace risks before deciding to fly and ICAO does not have authority to override sovereign state decisions to close airspace or reroute traffic.

ICAO says more effective risk information sharing proposed by the 2014 conflict zone risk task force, which was set up after MH17. The recommendations of the task force were formally adopted by the ICAO Council in February this year. A key recommendation was establishing an online risk information repository, which became publicly available in April this year.