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Supreme Court rejects attempt by Flight PS752 victims’ families to seize Iranian assets

The Supreme Court of Canada has declined to hear an appeal by victims families' of Flight PS752 trying to seize Iran’s properties and bank accounts on Canadian soil for millions of dollars in compensation.

Victims' families were awarded close to $250 million by a court — but Iran hasn't paid up

People attend a vigil marking the three year anniversary of the downing of flight PS752, in Toronto on Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023.

The Supreme Court of Canada has refused to hear an appeal launched by the families of Flight PS752 victims to seize Iranian state property and bank assets held on Canadian soil to cover millions of dollars in unpaid compensation.

Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp shot down the commercial plane in 2020 over the skies of Tehran, killing 175 people, including 55 Canadian citizens and 30 permanent residents.

The Ontario Superior Court of Justice ruled in 2021 that Iran shot down the plane intentionally in an act of terrorism. The court later awarded nine families representing 14 victims close to $250 million in compensation in two different lawsuits that later merged.

Iran hasn't paid those families and did not defend itself in court, making it a default judgment. Iran's foreign minister later called the ruling "shameful" and said it had "no basis."

The victims' families subsequently moved to enforce the judgment against Iran's properties and bank accounts in Canada.

But the federal government — which concluded in 2021 that Iran is entirely responsible for the destruction of the plane — also argued in an Ontario court that under international law, the courts don't have the power to allow the families to seize Iranian assets.

A justice with the Ontario Superior Court sided with the government and concluded that Iranian property is protected by diplomatic immunity under Canadian law.

Federal government guilty of 'hypocrisy,' lawyer says

The families' lawyer Mark Arnold took the case to the Ontario Court of Appeals, which also denied the families permission to seize and sell certain Iranian diplomatic properties.

Arnold then asked Canada's top court if it would hear the case.

He said the Supreme Court's dismissal of his leave application, released Thursday morning, was "not unexpected" but was still "disappointing."

"There's a certain element of hypocrisy there," Arnold told CBC News. "[The federal government] condemned what happened four and a half years ago, yet they are … protecting Iran's interest in Canada."

WATCH/ Ontario court blocks attempts by families of Flight PS752 victims to seize Iranian assets

Ontario court blocks attempt by families of Flight PS752 victims to seize Iranian assets

1 year ago

Duration 3:11

The Ontario Superior Court of Justice has ruled that the families of Flight PS752 victims cannot seize certain properties or bank accounts on Canadian soil, because the federal government considers them protected under international law.

Arnold has argued that Canada and Iran cut diplomatic ties in 2012, so Iran's assets shouldn't be protected in Canada.

This is now the end of the road for the case in Canada, he said.

Arnold is now setting his sights on the legal system in Europe to get Iran to pay up. He said Iran has assets there and he has been in discussions with European lawyers about next steps.

"Hopefully will be able to seize and sell Iranian property there," said Arnold. "But it is a long, long fight and frankly it's a fight these families' victims should never have to endure."

Iran's final report on the destruction of PS752 said an air defence unit misidentified the plane as a threat due to a misalignment of the missile launcher's radar.

WATCH/Canada helps take Iran to international court for shooting down Flight PS752

Canada helps take Iran to court for shooting down Flight PS752

11 months ago

Duration 2:13

Canada, Sweden, Ukraine and the United Kingdom have launched a case at the International Court of Justice against Iran over the downing of Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS752 in January 2020.

In their own report, victims' families accused Iran of intentionally keeping the airspace open to use civilian air passengers as human shields against a possible American attack.

Canada has promised to hold Iran accountable for violations of international law and is seeking full reparations for victims' families.

Canada and other countries that lost citizens on PS752 have taken the case to the International Court of Justice and have initiated dispute settlement proceedings before the International Civil Aviation Organization. The federal government predicts it could take several years before there's a resolution.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ashley Burke

Senior reporter

Ashley Burke is a senior reporter with the CBC's Parliamentary Bureau in Ottawa. She was recognized with the Charles Lynch Award and was a finalist for the Michener Award for her exclusive reporting on the toxic workplace at Rideau Hall. She has also uncovered allegations of sexual misconduct in the Canadian military. You can reach her confidentially by email: ashley.burke@cbc.ca

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    Credit belongs to : www.cbc.ca

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