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

Kelowna General Hospital. (File photo)
COVID-19 outbreak at Kelowna General Hospital declared over

Three people tested positive for the virus — two patients and one staff — one of whom died

A crash at the intersection of Harvey Avenue and Leckie Road on June 15. (Amandalina Letterio/Capital News)
Traffic stalled by Harvey Avenue crash in Kelowna

One lane is open as crews clean up after crash at Harvey Avenue and Leckie Road

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan/Black Press Media file)
Rise in break-ins prompts Kelowna RCMP warning

Kelowna RCMP share steps on keeping your home safe

Stage one water restrictions will be back in place for some Regional District of Central Okanagan water users. (Black Press Media file)
Outdoor watering restrictions return to RDCO for the season

Customers who use water systems operated by the regional district will be affected

A provided photo of the suspect. (Kelowna RCMP/Contributed)
Kelowna RCMP investigating after business robbed

An undisclosed amount of money and merchandise were taken from the business

People watch a car burn during a riot following game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup final in downtown Vancouver, B.C., in this June 15, 2011 photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Howe
10 years ago: Where were you during the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots?

Smashed-in storefronts, looting, garbage can fires and overturned cars some of the damage remembered today

(Black Press Media file)
Dirty money: Canadian currency the most germ-filled in the world, survey suggests

Canadian plastic currency was found to contain 209 bacterial cultures

(pixabay file shot)
B.C. ombudsperson labels youth confinement in jail ‘unsafe,’ calls for changes

Review states a maximum of 22 hours for youth, aged 12 from to 17, to be placed in solitary

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

Grace (left), a caribou that was born in a maternal pen north of Revelstoke, is alive and well said the province. It appears she even has a calf. Maternity pens aim to increase caribou calf survival by protecting them from predation until they are older and less vulnerable. (Contributed)
For the first time in years, caribou numbers increasing near Revelstoke

North herd growing but south herd still concerning

Eleonore Alamillo-Laberge, 6, reads a book in Ottawa on Monday, June 12, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Parents will need to fight ‘COVID learning slump’ over summer: B.C. literacy experts

Parents who play an active role in educating their children this summer can reverse the slump by nearly 80%, says Janet Mort

The border crossing on Highway 11 in Abbotsford heading south (file)
Western premiers call for clarity, timelines on international travel, reopening rules

Trudeau has called Thursday meeting, premiers say they expect to leave that meeting with a plan

The B.C. government’s vaccine booking website is busy processing second-dose appointments, with more than 76 per cent of adults having received a first dose. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C.’s COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations stable for Tuesday

108 new confirmed cases, 139 in hospital, 39 in intensive care

A worker, at left, tends to a customer at a cosmetics shop amid the COVID-19 pandemic Thursday, May 20, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Half of cosmetics sold in Canada, U.S. contain toxic chemicals: study

Researchers tested more than 230 commonly used cosmetics and found that 56% of foundations and eye products, 48% of lip products and 47% of mascaras contained high levels of fluorine

Most Read