Aerospace engineer Fatima Dyczynski who died aboard Malaysian Airlines flight MH17. Photo: Supplied Cockpit wreckage reconstruction of MH17 at the Gilze-Rijen Military Base in Netherlands. Photo: Dean Mouhtaropoulos

Families of Australian victims of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 downed by a missile over the Ukraine in July 2014 are seeking compensation of $10 million per passenger in what could result in one of the largest aviation disaster payouts in history.

The claim served by Sydney legal firm LHD Lawyers on May 9 to the European Court of Human Rights lays the blame squarely at the door of the Russians.

Proposed respondents to the claim are the Russian Federation and President Vladimir Putin. It argues that Russia recognises an attack on a passenger plane is an egregious act having offered “a $50 million reward in connection with the terrorist downing of an Egyptian Airline that killed a large number of Russian citizens”.

There are 33 next of kin named in the application, eight from Australia, one from New Zealand and the remainder from Malaysia. There were 298 occupants on the plane which, lawyers say, could potentially take the compensation bill to almost $3 billion.

Among the claimants named are the parents of 25-year-old aerospace engineer Fatima Dyczynski

Her parents, Jerzy, a cardiac surgeon, and Angela, who live in Perth, told Fairfax Media that even after almost two years since the shooting down of MH17, no words could describe their loss.

Using an analogy to space science that their daughter was so passionate about, they said: “Fatima made us aware we are all together on the spaceship Earth and that the crew has a power to make changes of the whole planet, even sometimes we feel small and insignificant.

“We have to remember that our actions can produce the “butterfly effect”, a small change within us or in our environment will result in a significant, massive outcome for the mankind.

“Fatima was, is and will be a source of inspiration for us the parents, for young students, scientists beginning their careers and the enthusiastic entrepreneurs establishing their high-tech start-up companies.”

Also named is Tim Lauschet, the son of Sydney teacher Gabriele Lauschet, who has been forced to sell the family home since the tragedy. The New Zealander named on the application is Sharlene Ayley, a mother of two young boys who lost her husband, Robert.

The documents allege that the Russian Federation has worked to keep its involvement hidden. It has failed to conduct an internal investigation, refused to participate in the cockpit reconstruction and its “Pawn Storm” cyber warfare unit hacked into the Dutch Safety Board investigative website,” it states.

Jerry Skinner, a co-associate of Sydney law firm LHD based in the US whose signature is on the application, has a reputation for achieving large compensation awards for his clients. He helped negotiate $10 million in compensation from Libya for each family who lost loved ones in the Lockerbie disaster.

He argues in the application: “Similarly, this Court to deter the Russian Federation from violating the sanctity of passenger flights should order the Federation to pay each applicant $10 million.”

Currently in Sydney, he told Fairfax Media that the European Court could make a determination of ‘just satisfaction’ that the respondent(s) is accountable for the acts that occurred. It could then move to the International Court of Arbitration to put a figure on the award.

“Hopefully they [the Russian Federation] will want to talk about it before we get to moving from one court to an arbitration,” he said.”

Of Putin, he added: “He lost a plane himself over Sinai [a Metrojet Airbus 321 carrying Russian holidaymakers in October 2015] and he offered $50 million to anybody who would give him evidence to find anything.

“Having done all this in public I am afraid the idea is to get him to stand up to his word and pay for his own mistakes, which are very similar to what happened to his people.

“My clients want accountability for the deed. They want enough money to reflect that the Russians take this seriously and serve as a deterrent. I have encouraged the Russians to contact me to discuss how much money that is … but I have heard nothing from Russia, from their embassy or from the contact points that we established to indicate that they are willing to talk about negotiating.”

Skinner added: “We have now seen a rash of ‘let’s take it out on the airlines’ because they are easier targets than everybody thinks.

“The issue [over MH17] is will the Russians acknowledge accountability? This is about justice and accountability, not about the biggest sum of money you can get.”

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