Canada, Sweden, Ukraine and the United Kingdom say they will continue their efforts to hold Iran legally responsible for the downing of flight PS752 and the killing of 176 people by taking the case to the International Court of Justice.
The four countries, part of the International Coordination and Response Group set up to hold accountability and make reparations for the families of the victims, announced the move Thursday after the deadline for Iran to submit to arbitration under the Montreal Convention.
The convention obliges parties to prohibit, prevent and punish certain violations involving aircraft, including the unlawful and willful destruction of an aircraft in service. Canada, Sweden, Ukraine, the UK and Iran are all parties to the treaty, which was signed in Montreal in 1971.
The response group started the convention process in December, giving Iran six months to declare its participation in arbitration, which it failed to do.
“Accordingly, the Coordination Group intends to continue our joint effort to ensure that Iran is held accountable for the unlawful downing of Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 by taking the dispute to the International Court of Justice as soon as possible.”
Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly met with the families of the victims on Thursday morning to update them on the response group’s next steps.
“These families deserve transparency, accountability and justice and we will not budge in our efforts to seek this through international law,” Joly said in a statement. Impunity is not an option for the Iranian regime.
Starting the International Court of Justice process will take a few days as the Iranian embassy in The Hague is supposed to be open, but it will remain closed until the end of the week for Eid al Adha, the holiday that marks the end of Ramadan.
Flight downed on January 8, 2020
Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) shot down the Ukraine International Airlines plane shortly after takeoff from Tehran on January 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.
The families of the victims of flight PS752 began their fight for compensation in 2020. Last year, an Ontario court awarded them $107 million, but lawyers warned that it would be very difficult to get Iran to pay the compensation. Iran failed to defend itself in court, making it a default judgment.
Lawyers representing the families went to court seeking permission to seize three properties in Ottawa and withdraw money from bank accounts at the Royal Bank of Canada and Scotiabank maintained by Iran.
The lawyers argued that Iran’s right to diplomatic immunity ended a decade ago when Canada expelled Iranian diplomats.
In January, Ontario’s Superior Court of Justice ruled that the victims’ families cannot seize those properties or bank accounts on Canadian soil because the federal government considers those assets to be the property of the Islamic Republic of Iran and protected by international law .
Since the fall, Canada has imposed sanctions on 163 individuals and 192 entities in Iran, including the IRGC and members of the regime’s security, intelligence and economic apparatus.
Global Affairs Canada has said those sanctions effectively freeze all assets Iran has in Canada.