Families of victims of the Ukrainian airliner that was shot down by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard in 2020 seek to file a lawsuit against the regime in The Hague.
“With the expiration of the six-month period for the Islamic Republic of Iran to submit to binding arbitration for the downing of Flight PS752, it is anticipated that the case will be referred to the International Court of Justice in The Hague after June 28,” read a Wednesday statement by the Association of Families of Flight PS752 Victims.
Pinning hope on the International Coordination and Response Group for the victims -- comprised of Canada, Ukraine, Britain, and Sweden – the victims’ families said that “If the affected countries follow through as expected, it will mark the first time in history that the Islamic Republic will face an international tribunal for one of the thousands of crimes it has committed.”
In a statement issued on December 28, 2022, the International Coordination and Response Group called on Iran to submit to “binding arbitration of the dispute related to the downing of Flight PS752 by 2 surface-to-air missiles launched unlawfully and intentionally by members of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) air defense unit...”
The victims’ families also organized a forum to discuss the issue and a rally in Toronto on July 5 to raise awareness about the tragic accident.
In September, lawyers representing the families submitted an Article 15 Communication to the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, providing information and evidence about crimes that occurred when Iranian missiles brought down the international flight.
The request was submitted in accordance with Article 15 of the Rome Statute, alleging that perpetrators have committed certain war crimes and crimes against humanity against the passengers and crew of flight PS752 and their surviving family members, including the war crimes of willful killing, intentionally directing attacks against the civilian population or civilian objects, as well as other inhumane acts.
The airliner was shot down by the IRGC on January 8, 2020, as it took off from Tehran’s Imam Khomeini International Airport. Only hours earlier, the IRGC had fired more than a dozen missiles at Iraqi bases hosting US and coalition troops in retaliation for the killing of the IRGC Qods Force Commander Ghasem Soleimani who was killed in Baghdad by a US drone strike just five days earlier. All 176 passengers and crew, including 63 Canadians as well as 82 Iranian citizens died in the disaster.
The Wednesday call to prosecute the perpetrators at the International Court of Justice came as the UN's top court said that the Islamic Republic has taken Canada to the ICJ for allegedly breaching Tehran's state immunity by designating it a sponsor of terrorism.
Canada listed Tehran as a terror sponsor in 2012 and severed diplomatic ties as relations frayed over Tehran's support for Bashar al-Assad's regime in Syria, its nuclear program, and threats against Israel. In 2016, a Canadian judge ordered Iran's non-diplomatic land and bank accounts in Canada to be handed over to victims of attacks by Hamas and Hezbollah.
Iran launched legal proceedings against Canada on Tuesday "concerning alleged violations of its immunities" as a sovereign state, the Hague-based ICJ said in a statement on Wednesday.
"Canada has adopted and implemented a series of legislative, executive, and judicial measures against Iran and its property in breach of its international obligations," Iran said in its filing to the court.
Iran has demanded compensation from Canada for the "violation of its international obligations,” and asked the ICJ to tell Ottawa to overrule any judgments against Tehran in Canadian courts.
The case is similar to the Iranian regime’s long-running claim at the ICJ against the United States for billions of dollars of assets frozen by US court rulings.