(CBS) — The crash Thursday of Malaysia Airlines flight 17 could become yet another cause for disagreement between Ukraine and Russia.
The international law governing crashes was worked out here in Chicago in 1944. Normally, it would give Ukraine control of the investigation, because the plane went down in its airspace.
But DePaul University International Aviation Law Institute research fellow John Mulligan said it may not be so clear-cut with pro-Russian separatists seeking to take control of the area and possibly involved in the plane’s crash.
“Ukraine would be the first state you would look to as the lead investigator here,” he said.
But because rebels appear to be in control of the territory, “They’re likely to be reluctant to allow Ukranian officials in to actually conduct the investigation,” he said.
He said it raises a series of questions.
“Does that sort of weaken Ukraine’s claims to the territory itself? Is that a tacit admission on their part that this isn’t clearly Ukranian territory anymore? Is that just a reflection of the facts on the ground? Or, in an ideal world, are those kinds of disputes going to be put aside and can Ukraine and Russia and everyone get together to let this investigation take place despite everything else going on?” he asked.
Rebel sources have said, in published reports, that they have the black boxes and will turn them over to Russia. Mulligan says Russia must, in turn, give them to the country heading the investigation — unaltered.
Mulligan said he is unaware of any attempt by a country in possession of the recorders after previous crashes to alter them, although he said they could help investigators to determine if Russia bears any responsibility for the crash.
Malaysia also could stake a claim to become the lead investigator of the crash, because the airline is headquartered there, Mulligan said.