UN aviation body: ‘Not our job’ to warn about dangers of missiles

Updated 19 July 2014

UN aviation body: ‘Not our job’ to warn about dangers of missiles

OTTAWA/MONTREAL: The UN civil aviation body said it was not responsible for issuing warnings about potential dangers such as military conflicts, saying that duty fell to individual nations.
The role of the International Civil Aviation Authority has come under scrutiny after a Malaysian airliner was shot down by a missile on Thursday over eastern Ukraine, killing 298 people.
Montreal-based ICAO rejected suggestions it should have issued a warning about the potential dangers of flying over the area.
“ICAO does not declare airspace safe or unsafe or undertake any other direct operational responsibilities with respect to civilian air services,” said spokesman Anthony Philbin.
“It is always the responsibility of our sovereign member states to advise other states of potential safety hazards.”
Asked whether ICAO would ever issue warnings about the dangers of missiles, he replied: “It’s not our job.”
Malaysia’s transport minister said earlier that ICAO had shut down a route over eastern Ukraine after the disaster. ICAO said it did not have the power to open or shut routes.
ICAO did issue a warning to airlines in April about flying over Crimea in the wake of the Russian invasion but it cited potential problems with conflicting air traffic controllers, not the risk of violence.
The warning was not an order but rather said “consideration should be given to measures to avoid the airspace.”
Malaysia said ICAO had approved the route the doomed airliner took but this appears to be a misreading of what the body does. ICAO issues adviseries based on decisions taken by delegates rather than telling members what to do.
“It is up to countries to implement them or not, most countries do ... but ICAO standards are more or less equivalent to a treaty, you can either comply or not as you see fit,” said a Canadian expert on aviation law, who asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
Despite having an expertise in aviation, ICAO is challenged by its inherent structure as a UN body with 190 members, said John Saba, a lecturer at McGill University’s Integrated Aviation Management Program in Montreal.
“The political constraints are beyond them,” Saba said. “You have people from different countries who are trying to represent the interest of their country but also hammer out deals.
“To condemn them (ICAO) would be very, very unfair.”
Philbin said ICAO would not pass on any information it might receive about airlines avoiding certain parts of the world because “ICAO doesn’t really have an operational mandate.”
Ukraine had allowed airliners to fly at 32,000 feet (9,753 meters) and higher above the area where the Malaysian flight crashed. US and other officials say the jet was shot down by a surface-to-air missile fired from territory controlled by Russian-backed separatist rebels.
Brussels-based Eurocontrol is the agency responsible for coordinating European airspace. It and ICAO were cited in a safety bulletin issued by the European Aviation Safety Agency in April advising that Crimean airspace should be avoided.
Domestic authorities also have significant powers. The US Federal Aviation Administration issued an order on Thursday prohibiting American aircraft from flying over eastern Ukraine.
ICAO said on Friday that, in response to an official request from the Ukrainian government, it would send a team to assist with the investigation into the downing of the plane. But it noted that Ukraine is officially in charge of the investigation by virtue of being the “state of occurrence.”
The crash highlights the fragmented nature of global aviation regulation.
Philbin said there had been no talk of ICAO taking on a more global regulatory role and Saba said the organization was unlikely to change in the near future.
“The countries that are members of ICAO have to agree to it. How are you going to get them all to agree to give ICAO more power over them?” he said.
“They are our best hope for having any international rules. It may be an imperfect hope but they are our best hope.”


Suicide bomber kills 18 in Afghan capital

Updated 24 October 2020

Suicide bomber kills 18 in Afghan capital

  • There has been an upsurge in violence between Taliban and Afghan forces in the country
  • The US signed a peace deal with the Taliban in February, opening up a path toward withdrawing American troops from the conflict

KABUL: A suicide bomber struck near an education centre in the Afghan capital on Saturday, killing at least 18 people in the latest attack to rock the conflict-wracked country.
Violence on the ground has spiked in recent weeks despite the Taliban and the Afghan government holding peace talks in Qatar to end the country's grinding war.
The suicide attack, which also wounded 57, happened late afternoon at the centre, which offers training and courses for students in higher education in a western district of Kabul.
"A suicide bomber wanted to enter the education centre," Tareq Arian, spokesman for the interior ministry, said in a statement.
"But he was identified by the centre's guards after which he detonated his explosives in an alley."
He said the attack had left at least 18 people dead and 57 wounded.
"I was standing about 100 metres from the centre when a big blast knocked me down," said local resident Ali Reza, who had gone to hospital with his cousin who was wounded in the blast.
"Dust and smoke was all around me. All those killed and wounded were students who wanted to enter the centre."
Daesh claimed responsibility for the attack.
Residents in several districts of western Kabul belong to the minority Shiite Hazara community, often targeted by Daesh militants. 
In the past, extremists have targeted several education centres and other facilities in the area.
In May, a group of gunmen launched a brazen daylight attack on a hospital in west Kabul that left several mothers dead. The gunmen were shot dead after hours of fighting with security forces.