Rescue workers search the scene where a Ukrainian plane crashed in Shahedshahr, southwest of the capital Tehran, Iran, Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020. An Ontario court has ruled that the Iranian military’s downing of a passenger jet early last year was an intentional act of terrorism, paving the way for relatives of those killed to seek compensation from the country. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Ebrahim Noroozi

Rescue workers search the scene where a Ukrainian plane crashed in Shahedshahr, southwest of the capital Tehran, Iran, Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020. An Ontario court has ruled that the Iranian military’s downing of a passenger jet early last year was an intentional act of terrorism, paving the way for relatives of those killed to seek compensation from the country. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Ebrahim Noroozi

Ontario court rules deadly shootdown of Flight 752 in Iran was act of terrorism

Ruling invalidates Iran’s immunity against civil litigation

An Ontario court has ruled that the Iranian military’s downing of a passenger jet early last year was an intentional act of terrorism, paving the way for relatives of those killed to seek compensation from the country.

In the decision, Ontario Superior Court Justice Edward Belobaba found on a balance of probabilities that the missiles that shot down Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 on Jan. 8, 2020, were fired deliberately at a time when there was no armed conflict in the area.

As a result, he found it constituted an act of terrorism that would invalidate Iran’s immunity against civil litigation.

While the State Immunity Act protects foreign states from legal claims, the Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act provides an exception in cases where the losses are caused by terrorist activity, the ruling said.

More than 100 of the 176 people killed in the plane crash had ties to Canada, including 55 Canadian citizens and 30 permanent residents.

The lawsuit was filed last year by four people whose loved ones were killed in the attack.

Merzhad Zarei lost his 18-year-old son, Arad, while Shahin Moghaddam lost his wife, Shakiba, and their son Rossitin, the document said. Ali Gorji lost his niece Poureh and her husband Arash, who were newlyweds, it said.

The fourth plaintiff, identified only as Jane Doe because she fears reprisals from Iran, had planned to be on the plane alongside her husband but couldn’t get a visa in time, the ruling said.

Lawyers representing the plaintiffs said the ruling is “unprecedented in Canadian law.”

“It is significant for the impact it will have on immediate surviving family members seeking justice,” Mark Arnold and Jonah Arnold said in a statement Thursday.

The suit names a number of defendants, including the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

Iran was served with the claim through Global Affairs Canada in September, but failed to file a statement of defence and was found in default in December.

Normally, a defendant found in default is deemed to admit the truth of the allegations made in the statement of claim, but the protections under the State Immunity Act apply even to those found in default, Belobaba wrote. The plaintiffs must therefore still satisfy the court that the case can proceed under the legally established exceptions.

“The plaintiffs have established that the shooting down of Flight 752 by the defendants was an act of terrorism and constitutes ‘terrorist activity’ under the SIA, the JVTA and the provisions of the Criminal Code,” he wrote.

The judge relied on two expert reports — one by Ralph Goodale, Canada’s special adviser on the incident, and the other by the Special Rapporteur to the United Nations Human Rights Council — in determining that the missiles were fired intentionally.

He also relied on the UN report and other experts in finding there was no armed conflict in the region at the time.

In the immediate aftermath of the shootdown, Iran denied responsibility but acknowledged three days later that its paramilitary Revolutionary Guard mistakenly hit the Ukrainian jetliner with two surface-to-air missiles.

Preliminary reports released by Iranian authorities last year pointed to an air-defence operator who they said mistook the Boeing 737-800 for an American cruise missile.

Iran’s civil aviation body released a final report earlier this year that blamed “human error” for the firing of the missiles but named no one responsible.

Thursday’s ruling dealt only with liability. The judge said another hearing will be held regarding compensation.

—Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press

RELATED: Trudeau, O’Toole, demand accountability as Iranian officials indicted for PS752 crash

RELATED: Flight PS752 shot down after being ‘misidentified’ as ‘hostile target,’ Iran’s final report says

Flight 752 crash in IranIranTerrorism

Just Posted

The RCMP presence in Central Okanagan public schools is being reviewed by the board of education. (File photo)
RCMP presence welcomed in Central Okanagan public schools

Staff survey feedback overwhelmingly positive from students, staff and parents

18-year-old skier Logan Leach follows his guide, Julien Petit, down an alpine track. The Lumby athlete who is visually impaired has been named to Alpine Canada’s Ski Team ahead of the 2022 Paralympic Games in Beijing. (Contributed)
Lumby’s Logan Leach named to national ski team

The 18-year-old visually impaired athlete officially joins Canada’s Para-Alpine roster ahead of Beijing 2022

Sovereign Lake Nordic Club is the first ski area in Canada to signify its commitment to ending working poverty, by paying all its staff and contracted workers a living wage. (Contributed)
Vernon ski area first in Canada to pay living wage

Sovereign Lake Nordic Club invests in staff and contracted workers

Fair-goers take a ride at the 120th annual Armstrong Interior Provincial Exhibition and Stampede Aug. 28-Sept. 1, 2019. (Katherine Peters - Morning Star)
Armstrong’s IPE not eligible for COVID-19 grant designed for major attractions

Shuswap MLA Greg Kyllo criticized the rigidity of the provincial program’s criteria

A young child has been taken to hospital after being struck by a vehicle on 30th Avenue in Vernon Friday, June 11, 2021. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
Child struck by vehicle in downtown Vernon

The young child has been taken to hospital with unknown injuries following the incident on main street

Dr. Albert de Villiers, chief medical health officer for the Interior Health Authority. (Contributed)
Black Press Media Weekly Roundup: Top headlines this week

Here’s a summary of this week’s biggest stories from the Okanagan-Shuswap

57-year-old Kathleen Richardson was discovered deceased in her home Wednesday, June 9, 2021. Her death is considered a homicide and connected to the slain brothers found on a Naramata forest road. (Submitted)
Naramata community in shock as condolences pour in for homicide victim Kathy Richardson

Richardson was well liked in the community, a volunteer firefighter with a home-based salon

British Columbia-Yukon Community News Association’s 2021 Ma Murray Awards were handed out during a virtual ceremony on Friday, June 10. (Screen grab)
Black Press Media winners take gold at B.C. and Yukon journalism awards

Publications received nods in dozens of categories

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Princeton GSAR responds 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. In 2020 the crew was called out 34 times, and members spent 721 hours on calls, and 683 hours training. Photo Princeton GSAR Facebook
Teen missing in Manning Park found after 24 hours

Young man spends night on mountain and survives with just a few scrapes

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

The RCMP are asking for assistance regarding the death of Kathleen Richardson of Naramata, pictured here. Her death is believed to be related to two homicides in Naramata in May. (RCMP)
Police identify South Okanagan homicide victim as 57-year-old Naramata woman

57-year-old Kathleen Richardson was discovered deceased in her home Wednesday

Two e-scooters parked on the sidewalk along Water Street in downtown Kelowna on Monday, May 3. Scooters parked on walkways are causing accessibility issues for some people with disabilities. (Michael Rodriguez/Capital News)
Kelowna General Hospital clinicians observe increase in e-scooter injuries

A report is set to go to city council next week on how the e-scooter pilot has gone thus far

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greets campers while visiting McDougall, Ont. on Thursday, July 19, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
71% of B.C. men say they’d prefer to go camping with Trudeau: survey

Most British Columbians with plans to go camping outdoors say they’d prefer to go with Trudeau or Shania Twain

Most Read