Belarus grounds Ryanair flight to arrest political dissidents
EU bans Belarus aircraft from its airspace
Above are the insignia of a trans-European governmental authority, the UN Aviation organization, the official seal of Belarus and an NGO that advocates on behalf of the world’s airlines. They have been drawn into a curious controversy. What’s it about? Are the actions and reactions lawful?
The Belarus Air Traffic Control diverted Ryanair Flight 4978 to Minsk, though it was not the closest airport (appropriate place to land in an emergency) citing a bomb aboard the Boeing 737-800. The Belarus government had already been subject to a number of international sanctions. Two of the passengers were detained after the aircraft landed.
This event was the catalyst for a number of punitive responses—most notably the EU closure of its airspace to all of the offending regime’s aircraft and the prohibition of all member state aircraft from entering the Belarus airspace. As reported by the New York Times—
At a Monday night’s regularly scheduled meeting of E.U. leaders in Brussels, president of the E.U. Commission, Ursula Von Der Leyen
Therefore, the safety and security of flights through Belarus airspace can no longer be trusted, and the council will adopt measures to ban overflys of the E.U. airspace…
The international response is surprisingly mixed. The EU was first to take action. Multiple governments soon followed suit –with a few NOTABLE EXCEPTIONS:
ICAO announced that it was going to investigate to see if “breach by any Member State of international aviation law, including the Convention on International Civil Aviation (Chicago Convention) and its Annexes.” The trade association, which represents the international airlines, disagreed with the EU, saying that the ban unduly politicized the crisis. Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General, declared that “Two wrongs do not make a right.”
Another odd reaction to the ICAO investigation came from Belarus when it declared that
“Yes, we propose to NOTIFY ICAO and IATA in order for the investigation to be legitimate and credible. We will do so in the near future,” a spokeswoman for the ministry’s aviation department said.
Strange declaration from a country that is subject to an international organization with jurisdiction to investigate.
This isn’t the first time a scheduled commercial flight was diverted and asked to land due to a bomb threat. What’s new here, based on the reporting to date, is that the bomb threat appears to have been fabricated as part of a planned operation by the state of overflight to abduct one of the passengers from the air. And what also reportedly is new here is the use of a military jet to intercept and force the passenger aircraft to land in the state of overflight. These actions must be challenged.
The ICAO Council, upon request by an ICAO member state, can investigate whether Belarus violated Article 3 b of the Chicago Convention by intercepting the aircraft without valid cause. It can also request information from Belarus to help determine whether what took place is a hijacking under the Hague Convention or an offense under the Montreal Convention to which all interested states are parties and affirm Belarus is under obligation to prosecute the perpetrators or extradite them to, say, Ireland…
As this process unfolds, states are free to take joint or unilateral action to protect their aircraft and citizens consistent with their multilateral and bilateral obligations, as the EU states evidently are now doing…
Difficult events like this one prompt understandable international reaction. But it’s important that those reactions recognize the boundaries of international law. Otherwise, they risk further eroding trust in the foundation for the safe and orderly conduct of international aviation damaged by the event itself.
EU leaders agreed on Monday night to apply sanctions against Belarus and to ban aviation over the country’s airspace.
In a statement adopted by EU heads of states and government, the bloc strongly condemned the forced landing of the Ryanair flight in Minsk and the detention of Belarussian journalist Raman Pratasevich and his partner.
The leaders also called on European airlines to avoid Belarus’ airspace and initiated the legal work to close to EU’s airspace and airports to Belarusian airlines.
On Sunday, citing a “bomb threat,” a Belarusian MIG-29 fighter jet forced a Ryanair plane passing through Belarus’ airspace to land, and then detained passenger Pratasevich, a journalist wanted for his involvement in “terrorist incident.”
Protasevich is the founder of the social media news channel NEXTA, which played a major role in protests last summer demanding the resignation of Lukashenko after the contested Aug. 9 elections.
The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) on May 27 reported that it has opened an investigation into the purpose behind the diversion and its repercussions for international flight over the region. The council held a special meeting to discuss the apparent “forced diversion,” outlining the need to understand “whether there had been any breach by any ICAO Member State of international aviation law, including the Convention on International Civil Aviation (Chicago Convention) and its Annexes,” according to an ICAO statement. Article 55 of the Chicago Convention governing international aviation agreements allows for the opening of such an investigation.
“The Council has therefore decided that all relevant facts should be officially established through an ICAO investigation conducted by the ICAO Secretariat,” said ICAO Council president Salvatore Sciacchitano…
Belarus plans to notify the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) of its readiness to investigate the emergency landing of a Ryanair plane in Minsk in the near future, the Belarusian Transport Ministry told Sputnik on Monday
MINSK (UrduPoint News / Sputnik – 24th May, 2021) Belarus plans to notify …ICAO and …IATA of its readiness to investigate the emergency landing of a Ryanair plane in Minsk in the near future, the Belarusian Transport Ministry told Sputnik on Monday.
“Yes, we propose to notify ICAO and IATA in order for the investigation to be legitimate and credible. We will do so in the near future,” a spokeswoman for the ministry’s aviation department said.
MOSCOW, May 24 (Reuters) – The Belarusian transport ministry has set up a commission to investigate the diversion and landing of a Ryanair plane in the capital Minsk and will
publish the results of its investigation soon, the RIA news agency reported on Monday.
Geneva – The International Air Transport Association (IATA) called on the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) to maintain the critical separation between politics and aviation safety issues.
The call followed the latest development in events following the incident when Ryanair FR4978 was intercepted over Belarus Airspace and forced to land in Minsk. On 2 June EASA replaced its recommendation (Safety Information Bulletin) for European airlines to carefully assess the risk of flying in Belarus airspace with a blanket prohibition (Safety Directive) on European aircraft entering Belarus airspace.
“Aviation safety must never be politicized. IATA condemned the actions of the Belarus government and called for an independent investigation. Banning European aircraft from using Belarusian airspace with a Safety Directive is also a politicization of aviation safety. This is a retrograde and disappointing development. EASA should rescind its prohibition and allow airlines to manage safety as they do each and every day—with their normal operational risk assessments.
“Two wrongs do not make a right. Politics should never interfere with the safe operation of aircraft and politicians should never use aviation safety as a cover to pursue political or diplomatic agendas,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General.
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