Canada among 4 countries launching effort to hold Iran accountable for shooting down Flight PS752

Canada, Sweden, Ukraine and the United Kingdom have formally triggered a process to hold Iran legally accountable for shooting down Flight PS752, nearly three years after 176 people died on board the downed passenger plane.

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) shot down the Ukraine International Airlines flight shortly after takeoff in Tehran on Jan. 8, 2020. Two surface-to-air missiles hit the plane, killing all on board — including 55 Canadian citizens, 30 permanent residents and others with ties to Canada.

On Wednesday, the International Coordination and Response Group, which was formed to coordinate efforts to seek accountability and reparations over the plane’s downing, announced that ministers from Canada, Sweden, Ukraine and the U.K. had requested Iran’s regime submit to binding arbitration under an international dispute resolution process governed by the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Civil Aviation.

The convention requires its signatory countries to prohibit, prevent and punish certain offences involving aircraft, including the unlawful and intentional destruction of an aircraft in service. Canada, Sweden, Ukraine, the U.K. and Iran are all parties to the convention, which was signed in Montreal in 1971.

If the countries can’t agree to terms for arbitration within six months, the case can be taken to the International Court of Justice.

Previous efforts to get Iran to participate in negotiations over reparations for Flight PS752 had failed.

The families of the victims of Flight PS752 began their fight for compensation in 2020. Earlier this year, an Ontario court awarded them $107 million, but lawyers warned that actually getting Iran to pay the damages would be very difficult.

People dressed in black hold signs, each with one person's face and name on them, while walking in a line down a street.
People hold placards with images of the victims of Flight PS752 during a march in Toronto on Jan. 8, 2021, marking the first anniversary of the plane’s downing. The victims’ families have been fighting for truth and justice for nearly three years. (Carlos Osorio/Reuters)

Families hope for truth, justice 

Hamed Esmaeilion, who lost his wife and daughter on PS752, said he and other victims’ families are thankful the binding arbitration process has been launched, but they are not confident Iran will co-operate. 

“It was a long campaign for us but we’re very happy now that we have a roadmap ahead of us, and the truth will come out one day, and I think the day that the truth is out, justice will be served, too,” Esmaeilion told CBC News, speaking on behalf of the Association of the Families of Flight PS752 Victims.

“It was a very horrific crime that they have committed … This [international legal process] is important for the community and the wounds of the community to be healed.”

WATCH | Families hope for truth, justice from legal process against Iran:

Families of Flight PS752 victims hope for truth, justice from legal process

Hamed Esmaeilion, who lost his wife and daughter on Flight PS752, says victims’ families anticipate the International Court of Justice will eventually hold Iran accountable for shooting down the passenger plane.

CBC News has reached out to Iran’s foreign ministry for comment.

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