Flight PS752: Iran called out over downing of Ukrainian passenger plane

The plane was hit by missiles shortly after take-off in January 2020, with Tehran admitting its mistake three days later

Portraits of the passengers who died when Iran's military shot down a Ukrainian plane in January 2020. AFP
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A group of countries led by Canada have called for an arbitrator to settle claims against Iran over its shooting down of a Ukrainian passenger plane in January 2020.

Iranian forces shot down Ukraine Airlines flight PS752 shortly after its take-off from Tehran on January 8, 2020, killing all 176 people aboard — including 85 Canadian citizens and permanent residents.

Three days later, Iran admitted that its military had taken aim at the Kyiv-bound Boeing 737-800 plane by mistake.

“Those who lost loved ones in the downing of PS752 deserve justice,” Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly wrote on Twitter on Wednesday.

“We have taken an important step to advance our pursuit of that justice at the international level this week and will continue to work together to hold Iran accountable for this tragedy.”

The calls for justice are a first step in possibly bringing a case against Iran at the International Court of Justice, which victims' families have long demanded.

Canada, Britain, Sweden and Ukraine have been seeking reparations on behalf of the victims' families.

They said on Wednesday that they had “requested that Iran submits to binding arbitration of the dispute related to the downing of Flight PS752", under a 1971 multilateral treaty on threats to civil aviation.

If the parties cannot agree within six months on the terms for organising an independent arbitration tribunal, the dispute may be referred to the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

Hamed Esmaeilion, a spokesman for the victims' families, said in an online video they have long waited for the regime to be held to account for the air disaster and provide “every minute detail of the truth” about what happened.

“The association of families of Flight PS752 have endured great hardship to reach this important and essential milestone on the path to justice that was marred by legal and political twists and turns,” he said.

The group of countries led by Canada accuses Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps of having “launched unlawfully and intentionally” two surface-to-air missiles at the jet.

The Iranian Civil Aviation Organisation has pointed in a report to the “alertness” of its troops on the ground, who shot the missiles amid heightened tension between Iran and the US at the time.

Ukraine, which lost 11 citizens in the disaster, has said the report was “a cynical attempt to hide [the] true causes” of the tragedy, while Canada said it contained “no hard facts or evidence”.

Updated: December 29, 2022, 4:30 AM