12 March 2014
Malaysia lacks legal powers to properly investigate the missing Flight MH370
Reuters reports that while Malaysia is conducting an investigation into the missing Flight MH370, with the assistance of foreign governments and agencies, they do not have the legal powers needed for a formal international probe under UN-sanctioned rules. Such powers include the right to take testimony from witnesses, the right to have exclusive control over the release of information and ability to centralise evidence. Additionally, under a formal investigation, a board is established comprised of the plane maker, engine maker, unions, the airline and aviation safety regulatory agency of the country where the airline is based. Furthermore, no other state has taken the lead in an official probe into the missing Flight MH370. Industry experts say this leadership vacuum is unprecedented.
If Malaysia were to unilaterally open a formal investigation under UN rules, this may lead to sovereignty issues if the crash site turns out to be inside another country. However, without such a formal investigation under the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) rules, there is a risk that clues and records will be lost. According to UN rules, when a plane crashes in international waters, the country that is in charge of the investigation is the country where the plane is registered, here this would be Malaysia. If the plane crashed in Vietnam’s territory, it would have jurisdiction over the investigation, however, Vietnam does not have the resources to lead such an investigation and would need outside help. A European air safety official said, ‘I can’t remember anything like this. Usually it is pretty clear who is responsible for the investigation and they get to work straight way. It is very important to get all the factual information as soon as possible.’