Recovery workers at the site of a Ukraine passenger jet crash near Tehran, Iran, January 8, 2020
Canadian experts have concluded that Iran is “fully responsible” for the January 2020 shootdown of a Ukraine passenger jet near Tehran, killing all 176 passengers and crew.
The expert report said the downing would not have occurred if not for the “incompetence, recklessness, and wanton disregard for human life” of Iranian officials.
The specialists concluded that the anti-aircraft fire was not “premeditated” or ordered by Iranian authorities. They assessed that a soldier “likely acted on his own”, firing two missiles in error on Ukraine International Airlines flight 752 soon after it took off from Imam Khomeini International Airport on January 8.
The report noted that Iranian authorities did not close airspace or notify airlines. After the shootdown, the site was bulldozed and access was blocked to site, evidence, and witnesses.
The incident occurred five days after the US assassinated Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the head of the Quds Force of the Revolutionary Guards, in a drone strike outside Baghdad International Airport. Hours before the shootdown, Iran fired rockets on Iraqi base with American personnel.
More than 130 of the jet’s passengers had ties to Canada. More than 100 were Iranian citizens.
Iranian authorities initially claimed falsely that the jet crashed due to “catastrophic engine failure”. The military did not inform President Hassan Rouhani of the actual circumstances until 48 hours after the downing, and a statement was not issued to the Iranian public until January 11.
In May, a court in Canada’s Ontario Province ruled that Iran owes damages to relatives of the victims, finding “on a balance of probabilities” that the attack was an intentional act of terrorism.
Iran, which has no diplomatic relations with Canada, offered no defense in court. The lawsuit named the Supreme Leader and top Revolutionary Guards commanders.
Iranian officials said 10 people have been indicted over the incident, but have given little public information.
Canadian Foreign Minister Marc Garneau said after the report’s release, “Iran does not get off the hook in any way whatsoever. It is totally responsible for what happened.”
Citing “a series of extremely flawed decisions that could have and should have been avoided”, Garneau said Iran’s military command and control was too slow in addressing failures and taking measures to prevent further shootdowns.
The Foreign Minister left open the question of responsibility further up the chain of command. He said that the Canadian Government’s forensic team had to rely upon an Iranian report with “gaping holes”.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau amplified:
Iran’s official account of events is disingenuous, misleading, and superficial, and intentionally ignores key factors.
Senior regime officials made the decisions that led to this tragedy, and the world must not allow them to hide with impunity behind a handful of low-ranking scapegoats.
Trudeau said Canada willl “vigorously pursue full reparations for the downing and the harm that Iran has caused to the victims and their families”, with “a full accounting of the events that took place, complete transparency regarding the ongoing criminal prosecutions, and concrete guarantees by Iran that measures have been taken to ensure such a tragedy never happens again”.
Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Mohsen Bahravand tried to dismiss the findings, “From a legal standpoint, [Canada] lacks any authority to conduct a unilateral or arbitrary report or comment on an air crash outside their jurisdiction, If this highly politicised and illegal behavior by Canada became the norm, all countries, even the civil aviation industry, would be the main victims.”
He insisted, “Iran has fulfilled its obligations under international law and continues to pursue and implement them.”