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UK takes Iran to court over Ukrainian passenger jet shot down in 2020

The UK is among several nations launching a case against Iran at the United Nations’ highest court over the shooting down of a Ukrainian passenger jet and the deaths of all 176 on board in 2020.

It joins Ukraine, Canada and Sweden in wanting the International Court of Justice to rule Iran illegally shot down Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS752 on 8 January that year.

The plane was travelling to Kyiv when it was downed just minutes after taking off from Iran’s capital city, Tehran.

The countries also want the court to order Iran to apologise and pay compensation to the families of the victims.


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Video believed to show Iranian missiles hitting airliner

Those killed included nationals and residents of the UK, Ukraine, Canada and Sweden, as well as Afghanistan and Iran.

Their ages ranged from just one to 74 years old.

“Today’s legal action reflects our unwavering commitment to achieving transparency, justice and accountability for the families of the victims,” the countries said in a joint statement.

More on Iran

They said they had filed the case after Iran failed to respond to a December request for arbitration.

The site where the plane crashed
Pic: Mazyar Asadi/Pacific Press via ZUMA Wire/Shutterstock

Iran admitted it ‘unintentionally’ shot down jet

After three days of denials in January 2020 Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards admitted they “unintentionally” shot down the passenger jet with two surface-to-air missiles.

Senior figures in Tehran had claimed the US was partly responsible for the crash, which happened hours after Iran launched ballistic missiles at two US bases in Iraq to avenge the killing of its top military general in an American airstrike.

A final report issued in 2021 blamed a misaligned radar and an error by an air defence operator.

At the time Canada said the report made “no attempt to answer critical questions about what truly happened”, while Ukraine called it a cynical attempt by Iranian authorities to cover up the true reasons for the crash, which it said it suspected was intentional.

Pictures of the wreckage were shared by the Office of the President of Ukraine
Pictures of the wreckage were shared by the Office of the President of Ukraine

Tehran accused of withholding or destroying evidence

An Iranian court this year sentenced an air defence commander allegedly responsible for the downing to 13 years imprisonment, according to the country’s official judiciary news outlet.

But the countries filing the case called the prosecution “a sham and opaque trial”.

According to the UN court filing, the UK, Ukraine, Canada and Sweden argue Iran “failed to take all practicable measures to prevent the unlawful and intentional commission of an offence” and “failed to conduct an impartial, transparent, and fair criminal investigation and prosecution consistent with international law”.

The filing also alleges Iran withheld or destroyed evidence, blamed other countries and low-level Revolutionary Guards personnel, “threatened and harassed the families of the victims seeking justice” and failed to report details of the incident to the International Civil Aviation Organisation.

Last week Iran filed a case against Canada linked to the downing, accusing the country of flouting state immunity in allowing relatives of terrorism victims to seek reparations from the Islamic Republic.


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