Montreal, Canada – “Is it real?”
That is the textual content message Ali Dolatabadi remembers getting within the morning of January 8, 2020, simply hours after Ukrainian International Airlines flight PS752 was shot out of the sky close to Tehran, killing all 176 individuals on board.
Dolatabadi, an engineering professor at Concordia University in Montreal, Canada, greater than 9,000km from the crash web site, mentioned he couldn’t consider the preliminary Iranian information experiences of what had occurred.
But Dolatabadi’s disbelief shortly became sorrow when he confirmed that two former engineering college students on the Canadian college – Siavash Ghafouri-Azar and his spouse, Sara Mamani – have been amongst these killed. The pair had gone to Iran to get married.
“That was tough, very tough days and weeks. Still, it’s not easy to imagine,” Dolatabadi informed Al Jazeera in a telephone interview final month. “The problem also is still nobody knows exactly what happened.”
The Ukrainian International Airlines flight certain for Kyiv went down shortly after takeoff from Tehran’s Imam Khomeini International Airport on January 8, a time of heightened tensions between Iran and the United States.
Iran’s army had simply fired missiles on US forces in Iraq in retaliation for the assassination of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, who was killed in a January three US strike on Baghdad airport that was ordered by President Donald Trump.
After Iran initially denied any involvement, the Revolutionary Guards mentioned they shot down the airliner accidentally after mistaking it for a missile.
On December 30, the Iranian authorities pledged to pay $150,000 to every of the victims’ households. Iranian roads minister Mohammad Eslami additionally mentioned an intensive authorities report into the incident had been finalised and submitted to all stakeholders.
The lethal crash despatched shockwaves around the globe.
Many of the victims had connections to Canada, the place the devastation within the rapid aftermath of the incident was palpable. Fifty-five passengers have been Canadian residents, 30 have been Canadian everlasting residents, and dozens extra have been learning and dealing within the nation. Large vigils have been held in Canadian cities and fundraisers have been organised to assist the victims’ households, whereas Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s authorities promised to resolve what occurred.
Following the crash, the PS752 victims’ international locations – Canada, Ukraine, the UK, Sweden and Afghanistan – banded collectively to push for solutions and accountability. Under the banner of the International Coordination and Response Group, Kyiv has taken the lead in negotiations with Tehran for an intensive investigation and for compensation for victims’ households.
“They are trying to negotiate as a united front to make sure that no victim is left behind, that all victims are treated equally under the negotiations,” Amanda Ghahremani, a world felony lawyer based mostly in Canada, informed Al Jazeera earlier than the Iranian authorities’s announcement.
Ghahremani mentioned Ukraine was the best selection to steer the talks as a result of the airplane was a Ukrainian plane and Ukraine has the very best relationship with Iran of all of the international locations concerned.
The crash worsened an already fraught relationship between Ottawa and Tehran, which haven’t had diplomatic ties since 2012. Canadian and Iranian leaders have traded barbs through the course of the investigation, with Iran’s overseas ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh accusing Canada this month of exploiting households’ grief and politicising the method.
A current report by Trudeau’s former overseas affairs minister, Ralph Goodale, into the crash additionally discovered that “many of the key details” of what occurred stay unknown to the Coordination Group international locations and victims’ households – and put the blame squarely on Iran, fuelling tensions.
“Iran bears responsibility for that because – at least thus far – it has not conducted its investigations (safety, criminal or otherwise) in a truly independent, objective and transparent manner; and answers to critical questions have not been forthcoming,” the report reads.
In an electronic mail to Al Jazeera, Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Francois-Philippe Champagne mentioned acquiring reparations from Iran contains each compensation for the victims’ households and “an accounting of the events”.
“To date, discussions between the CG countries and Iran have been in relation to the structure and modalities of future negotiations. No other negotiations or meetings have taken place and no formal offers have been made by Iran to the CG countries,” Champagne mentioned.
He mentioned reparations can be decided “in accordance with international law through multilateral negotiations between the CG countries and Iran”.
Other avenues for redress and accountability exist past the negotiations, as nicely.
They are attempting to barter as a united entrance to guarantee that no sufferer is left behind, that every one victims are handled equally below the negotiations
Ghahremani is a consulting lawyer to the legislation agency Camp Fiorante Matthews Mogerman, which represents a number of victims’ households in search of compensation from Ukrainian Airlines. She mentioned these claims towards the airline are “a more immediate avenue for getting some form of compensation”.
The households have argued that the airline may be held liable below worldwide conventions. Depending on the passengers’ itinerary, their deaths could possibly be lined by both the Montreal Convention or its predecessor the Warsaw Convention, each enacted into Canadian legislation.
“It’s hard for families to have the bandwidth or the energy to try to think through compensation when that is clearly not going to be adequate for the loss that they’ve suffered – and that’s understandable,” Ghahremani mentioned.
“Nothing that we can try to accomplish in terms of justice is going to bring back the lost loved ones. But I think that it’s important for grieving families to know that this is an option that they have available.”
Others, in the meantime, have been pushing for a world judgement towards Iran.
Fred Farhat Soofi, a human rights activist within the Vancouver space who’s initially from Iran, mentioned that’s what he and different members of the neighborhood “are looking for [the] Canadian government to take them to international human rights court”.
Soofi, who knew one of many victims who died on Flight PS752, informed Al Jazeera in a telephone interview in December that “[there] won’t be closure until there is some type of international judgement against” Iran.
“Everybody was shocked,” Soofi mentioned in regards to the rapid aftermath. “It was something you couldn’t believe.”
Affected international locations can file a case towards Iran on the International Court of Justice, the United Nations’ high courtroom, to hunt reparations. They would wish to argue that the downing of the flight was a violation of worldwide legislation.
National authorities can even pursue felony investigations, however Ghahremani mentioned this course of is sophisticated and restrictive. In Canada, as an illustration, prosecutors won’t begin an investigation with out first having a suspect on their territory.
She mentioned every of the choices is in the end “contingent on how the factual investigation proceeds and what information is uncovered” in regards to the crash. “Unfortunately, the barriers to the evidence are a big problem, but we just have to wait and see how things evolve.”
Meanwhile, households are nonetheless in mourning one 12 months after the crash.
Dolatabadi, who went to highschool with Ghafouri-Azar’s uncle twenty years in the past in Toronto and in addition is aware of his former pupil’s father, mentioned the household stays devastated. “It takes time,” he informed Al Jazeera. “Really, one year is nothing for such a big disaster.”
He mentioned he personally takes solace in efforts to recollect and honour the victims, corresponding to new Concordia University engineering scholarships for Iranian grasp’s college students which have been named after Ghafouri-Azar and Mamani.
“They’re gone, but we can keep their spirits [alive within] ourselves – just remembering them.”