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If the court adjudicated that they didn't shoot the MH17 plane on purpose (they thought, mistakenly, that it was a Ukrainian military aircraft), why did it find the defendants guilty of murder as opposed to something else (negligent homicide or whatever)?

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Because they were reckless, not negligent

They didn’t make a mistake about the identity of the plane; they shot it down when they didn’t know what it was.

That’s murder.

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    Had the 'armed group under Russian control' consulted the Russian air control (where the plane would haven entered a few minutes later), they would have learned that the plane was expected and what type of plane it was. But they did not and thus are responsible for their action. Nov 17, 2022 at 21:42
  • So if someone throws a stone in the air, for example, and then it lands on someone's head and kills them, it would be murder, wouldn't it? Nov 18, 2022 at 0:07
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    No, but if they recklessly threw a stone at me thinking I was you (who they can legally kill) but not checking - that would be murder.
    – Dale M
    Nov 18, 2022 at 0:25
  • @SergeyZolotarev In England and Wales, it could be - recklessness is defined as: "a person acts recklessly with respect to a circumstance when he is aware of a risk that it exists or will exist or a result when he is aware of a risk that it will occur and it is, in the circumstances known to him, unreasonable to take that risk." There's no requirement that you are trying to kill a different person. That's a difference legal principle known as transferred malice.
    – JBentley
    Nov 18, 2022 at 12:16
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If the court adjudicated that they didn't shoot the MH17 plane on purpose (they thought, mistakenly, that it was a Ukrainian military aircraft)

The court did assume it was done on purpose.

2022-11-17: BBC News - MH17: Three guilty as court finds Russia-controlled group downed airliner:
The judges ruled that it was a deliberate action to bring down a plane, even though the three found guilty had intended to shoot down a military not a civilian aircraft.

Had the 'armed group under Russian control' consulted the Russian air traffic control (where the plane would haven entered a few minutes later), they would have learned that the plane was expected and what type of plane it was.

But they did not and thus are responsible for their action for the shooting down of what was not a legitimate military target.

So if someone throws a stone in the air, for example, and then it lands on someone's head and kills them, it would be murder, wouldn't it?

The intent to kill is a condition for murder. Your rock sample shows no intent.

In the case (as the jugement states), the intent to bring down the plane (killing those on bord) exists.

Because the 'armed group under Russian control' didn't check if it was a legitimate military target (by checking with Russian air traffic control), they are in violation of Article 3 (1) (a) of the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War (2nd part) | OHCHR

In the case of armed conflict not of an international character occurring in the territory of one of the High Contracting Parties, each Party to the conflict shall be bound to apply, as a minimum, the following provisions:

  1. Persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their arms and those placed hors de combat by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause, shall in all circumstances be treated humanely, without any adverse distinction founded on race, colour, religion or faith, sex, birth or wealth, or any other similar criteria.

To this end, the following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever with respect to the above-mentioned persons:

(a) Violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture;

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