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It has been one year since the downing of Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 by two surface-to-air missiles. These missiles belonged to Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC.) The event on January 8, 2020, killed all 176 innocent passengers on board the flight. The families affected are still after answers: Why were their loved ones targeted by the Iranian regime? What are the governments of Canada and Ukraine doing to bring justice and accountability to the families of the victims?
Canada and Ukraine are two countries that have much more of an interest in pursuing this case over the other states affected. They demanded a full investigation and justice for the families. However, the Iranian regime showed no sense of cooperation with Canada and Ukraine in the investigation process, and refused to deliver the plane's black boxes in time to France. Not to mention that Iranian agents removed all evidence, including laptop hard drives and cellphones, right after the plane was downed.
To prevent the families of the victims from speaking out and holding the regime accountable, Iranian authorities threatened them and interfered with the funerals. Several families reported incidents to the International Center for Human Rights (ICHR,) they have been threatened and intimidated by Iran's intelligence and security agents. Harassing and threatening of the families continues to this day.
Initially, the Iranian regime had not accepted any responsibility for downing the Ukrainian aircraft and repeatedly said that it was a crash. The information provided to media by Canada and the US indicated that the Ukrainian airliner was shot down by Iranian missiles, so the Iranian regime finally accepted on day four, January 11, 2020, that its military had shot down the Ukrainian airliner by mistake. They claimed that the plane had made a sharp turn that brought it near a sensitive military base. They still maintain the position that it was a human error.
In fact, the regime authorities accepted their responsibility, simply because of the evidence that had been revealed against them—but once again they lied by taking the position that it was a human error.
In the past year, the Iranian regime delayed the investigation process, they did this to come up with a make-up narrative and play victim. It took twelve months for Iran to provide a report to Ukraine, it was delivered on December 30, 2020. This was after pressure by families and the International coordination group was given. The details of this report are unknown to the public, but Ukraine has two months to review and respond to the report. Also, the content of the black boxes has not been revealed to the families.
The Ukrainian negotiation team has not reached a conclusion in their meetings with Iranian officials nor do they know if the investigation was successful. Canada on the other hand has not taken any serious action—Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his Foreign Affairs Minister but have delivered empty promises.
Families in Canada have demanded that the Government of Canada take serious actions against the regime of Iran by enlisting the IRGC as a terrorist entity and taking the Ukrainian flight victims’ case to an international court. The families feared the delay in the investigation and the slow process of holding Iran to account by Ukraine and Canada may give the Iranian regime the opportunity to block justice. Family members launched a lawsuit against the Supreme Leader of Iran and the IRGC in earlier days. Global Affairs Canada served a copy of the statement of claim on Iran with a lengthy delay only after pressure by the lawyers and human rights activists. It was believed that Canada has no intention to take Iran to court.
Mark Arnold, one of the lawyers in the proceedings against Iran just recently said that the regime of Iran and all defendants were noted in default and he is moving forward to schedule a hearing for assessment of damages. Iran chose not to respond to the claim and even threatened Canada to "know its limits." The Government of Canada should now support this court case to show its commitment to bring justice and answers to the families affected.
The Iranian regime's strategy in delaying the process of investigation, disregarding the justice for families—threatening them (and the Canadian government,) and providing contradictory statements establishes the fact that this regime's intention is to hide the truth and kill time—they do not want to reveal the reasons behind the downing of the Ukrainian jetliner. The international community, specifically Canada and Ukraine, need to keep the pressure on Iranian authorities. Iran must provide reasons for shooting down the aircraft. Meeting Iranian officials without vision and strategy and continued negotiations will not be effective.
If Canada and Ukraine do not come up with a much stronger strategy to confront the Iranian regime’s games, they will not be able to bring justice and accountability to families as they promised. Prime Minister Trudeau repeatedly said that Canada will seek justice, he failed to take any serious action. The case has not been taken to ICAO or International Court of Justice or even to the UN Security Council. The importance of the case at a world level can not be disregarded. If Canada and Ukraine want to know the truth and reasons behind the downing of the aircraft, now is the time for real and serious action, otherwise the Iranian regime will not provide genuine answers.
Ardeshir Zarezadeh is the Director of the International Center for Human Rights and a former Iranian political prisoner.