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

An example of the forest land in the Port Renfrew and Fairy Creek area of Vancouver Island is shown on May 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jen Osborne
Old-growth logging opponents launch hunger strike as arrests continue at Fairy Creek

Zain Haq says the hunger strikers will gather today at Burrard Street in downtown Vancouver

The City of Victoria is hoping to ring in the summer by celebrating local art and offering some distanced, live music to surprise people in parks, plazas and other public spaces. (Photo courtesy of the City of Victoria)
Live, pop-up concerts and local art being showcased in Victoria this summer

People will see surprise serenades at 16 locations throughout the summer

An example of the forest land in the Port Renfrew and Fairy Creek area of Vancouver Island is shown on May 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jen Osborne
Old-growth logging opponents launch hunger strike as arrests continue at Fairy Creek

Zain Haq says the hunger strikers will gather today at Burrard Street in downtown Vancouver

The 14th annual Oak Bay Young Exceptional Star (YES) awards June 3. (Christine van Reeuwyk/News Staff)
Oak Bay celebrates its Young Exceptional Stars with outdoor award ceremony

Nine young people recognized in 14th annual awards

Jada Benwell and Connor Larkey are the valedictorians of the 2021 graduating class at Parkland Secondary School. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Pandemic taught lessons in perseverance for North Saanich high schoolers

Parkland Secondary School to release 2021 grad ceremony video on June 25

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Premier John Horgan speaks as provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, right, and health minister Adrian Dix look on during a press conference to update on the province’s fall pandemic preparedness plan during a press conference from the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. officials to provide details on Step 2 of COVID reopening plan Monday

Step 2 could allow for larger gatherings and a resumption of recreational travel

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Most Read