​A year after downing of MH-17, charges prove elusive

LONDON -- Friday marked the anniversary of a man-made disaster: the shoot down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. A memorial service was held in the Netherlands; most of the dead were Dutch.

MH-17 was en route from Amsterdam to Malaysia when it was blown out of the sky over a war zone in eastern Ukraine. All 298 on board were killed.

In the Ukrainian village of Grabove -- where it happened -- they commemorated the tragedy too.

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Ceremony held in Ukrainian village of Grabove to mark one year since the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17
CBS News

The area is still controlled by pro-Russian rebels, the same rebels who were first on the scene a year ago -- and who seemed shocked to discover that the wreckage they were looking at was not of a Ukrainian military plane.

In video taken after the downing, a rebel leader is heard saying, "This is a passenger plane. Malaysia."

Examining the wreckage in the days after the crash revealed this was no accident. The plane had been shot down.

Debris from the cockpit includes the controls, the flight computer and pilot seat.

A year later, the rebels are still the obvious prime suspects and the families of the victims are getting impatient for justice.

The chief prosecutor in Holland -- Fred Westerbeke -- told CBS News Friday that he hopes to bring charges by the end of the year, but finding evidence that will stand up in court hasn't been easy.

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CBS News correspondent Mark Phillips stands next to debris from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17
CBS News

"We really need time to do it good and you only get once chance to go to a judge," he said. "Then it has to be perfect."

The Russians still reject the claim that the rebels they support shot the plane down. The Ukrainians did it, they say.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has rejected the call for an international tribunal.

Elliot Higgins, though, says the evidence still points at the pro-Russian rebels.

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Elliot Higgins
CBS News

He has provided Dutch investigators with social media data that he says proves a Russian missile launcher was in the area at the time -- and that it fired.

"They say, 'I've just seen a missile launch, there was this loud noise, this bang, I saw the smoke myself, I could see the missile going up from the ground,'" said Higgins.

Accusing a group of shooting down the plane is one thing. Apprehending individual suspects in a war zone and bringing them to trial, is something else.

  • Mark Phillips

    Mark Phillips is CBS News senior foreign correspondent, based in London.