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

CVSE officer checking out all the trucks before the convoy, which started at Riverlodge Recreational Centre in Kitimat BC and finished at the George Little Park in Terrace BC. (Jacob Lubberts photo)
VIDEO: Kitimat truck drivers rally together in honour of 215 bodies discovered at Kamloops Residential School

The convoy started at Riverlodge Recreational Centre and finished at the George Little Park

Northwest cancer patients in medical trials may soon have access to follow-ups closer to home. Dr. Rob Olson stands in front of a linear accelerator at the BC Cancer - Prince George centre. The machine is used to deliver SABR treatment to clinical trial patients. (Photo: supplied)
Pilot project brings access to care closer to home for Terrace cancer patients

Northwest B.C. will be the first region to partner in the international clinical trial project

Terrace River Kings’ Mason Richey celebrates a third period goal during CIHL action on Saturday at the Jim Ciccone Civic Centre during the 2019 season.
Senior hockey plans post-pandemic return to Terrace this fall

The Central Interior Hockey League hopes to have eight teams hit the ice

FILE – Perry Bellegarde, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, takes part in an event on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, July 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Indigenous Peoples Day must be a ‘call to action’, says Assembly of First Nations chief

Discovery of children at Kamloops residential school site must lead to change, Perry Bellegarde says

Participants of the Indigenous-led agricultural training program pose for a photograph with the staff at Tea Creek Farm in Kitwanga. (Photo courtesy, Alex Stoney)
Indigenous-led food sovereignty program trains first cohort in Kitwanga

Tea Creek Farm trained participants from northwest B.C. First Nations

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
VIDEO: Border quarantine to soon lift for fully vaccinated Canadians

Eligible travellers must still take multiple COVID-19 tests

Chilliwack secondary school’s principal is apologizing after a quote equating graduation with the end of slavery in the U.S. was included in the 2020-2021 yearbook. (Screenshot from submitted SnapChat)
B.C. student’s yearbook quote equates grad to end of slavery; principal cites editing error

Black former student ‘disgusted’ as CSS principal apologizes for what is called an editing error

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross. (Photo by Peter Versteege)
BC Liberal leadership candidate condemns ‘senseless violence’ of Okanagan church fires

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross says reconciliation isn’t about revenge for past tragedies

A coroner’s inquest will be taking place at the Capitol Theatre in Port Alberni for the next week. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Teen B.C. mom who died following police custody recalled as ‘friend to many’

Police sent Jocelyn George to hospital after intoxication had gone ‘beyond the realm’ of normal detox

FILE - In this Nov. 29, 2020, file photo, Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib leaves the field after an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons in Atlanta. Nassib on Monday, June 21, 2021, became the first active NFL player to come out as gay. Nassib announced the news on Instagram, saying he was not doing it for the attention but because “I just think that representation and visibility are so important.” (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)
Nassib becomes first active NFL player to come out as gay

More than a dozen NFL players have come out as gay after their careers were over

Penticton Indian Band Chief Greg Gabriel speaks to the Sacred Hearts Catholic Church burning down early Monday morning, June 21, 2021. (Monique Tamminga Western News)
Penticton band chief condemns suspicious burning of 2 Catholic churches

Both Catholic church fires are deemed suspicious, says RCMP

COVID-19 daily cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day moving average to June 17, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infections drop to 90 on Sunday, 45 Monday

Pandemic spread dwindles as 77% of adults receive vaccine

By protesting uninvited in First Nations’ territories, conservationists are acting in a neocolonial or paternalistic manner, says Huu-ay-aht Chief Robert Dennis. Photo by Heather Thomson
A closer look: do Vancouver Island First Nations support the war in the woods?

First Nations/environmentalist old growth alliance uneasy, if it exists at all

A blood drive in support of 1-year-old Rielynn Gormley of Agassiz is scheduled for Monday, June 28 at Tzeachten First Nation Community Hall in Chilliwack. Rielynn lives with type 3 von Willebrand disease, which makes it difficult for her to stop bleeding. (Screenshot/Canadian Blood Services)
Upcoming blood drive in honour of Fraser Valley toddler with rare blood condition

The Gormley family has organized a blood drive in Chilliwack on June 28

Most Read