ICJ confirms international case over Iran downing of Flight PS752

Four countries accuse Iran of failing to take all practical measures to prevent the downing of the 2020 flight and of not being transparent enough.

Debris of the Ukraine International Airlines, flight PS752 that crashed after take-off from Iran's Imam Khomeini airport
Iran says the plane was shot down as a result of human error in operating a missile defence system [File: Reuters]

Tehran, Iran – The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has confirmed that Canada and three allies have filed proceedings against Iran over its downing of Flight PS752 in 2020, which killed all 176 people on board.

Canada, the United Kingdom, Sweden and Ukraine, all of whom lost nationals and residents in the incident, tabled their case under the Montreal Convention, which deals with civil aviation safety, The Hague-based tribunal said on Wednesday.

The ICJ, also known as the World Court, said the applicants accuse Iran of failing to take all practical measures to prevent the destruction of the passenger plane and said it subsequently “failed to conduct an impartial, transparent and fair criminal investigation and prosecution consistent with international law”.

The Ukraine International Airlines flight bound for Kyiv was shot down with two missiles shortly after takeoff from Tehran’s Imam Khomeini International Airport on January 8, 2020, at a time of heightened tensions between Iran and the United States.

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) had just fired missiles at US forces in Iraq after the assassination of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, who was killed in a US drone strike in Baghdad.

Iranian officials have said the downing of the Boeing 737 was an accident caused by human error in operating a surface-to-air missile defence system.

In April, an Iranian court issued initial sentences for 10 unnamed people accused of playing a role in the incident. They included the operator of the defence system.

Iran has also set compensation of $150,000 for each of the families of the victims, and it said last year it had begun the payments.

Iran and other stakeholders have also held negotiations over the downing of the flight, but the other parties continue to accuse Tehran of a lack of transparency and insufficient cooperation.

Iran has repeatedly rejected the accusations, saying the other governments were trying to “politicise” the issue and exert pressure on Tehran.

Last week, the ICJ confirmed that Iran has filed a complaint accusing Canada of violating its “international obligations” by allowing people to seek civil damages against Tehran.

In the complaint, Iran asserted a violation of its sovereign immunity, which generally shields states from civil lawsuits in foreign jurisdictions.

The complaint was in response to a ruling last year by a Canadian court, which awarded CAD$107m (US$84m) to the families of six of the victims of Flight PS752.

The same judge – Justice Edward Belobaba of Ontario’s Superior Court – had labelled the incident an “act of terrorism” months earlier, a ruling Iran rejected as “shameful”.

Source: Al Jazeera