In a landmark decision, Iran has been ordered to pay $107 million to the families of six of the passengers who were murdered when Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 was shot down near Tehran.
The Iranian Revolutionary Guard launched two missiles that hit the Kyiv-bound plane shortly after takeoff on Jan. 8, 2020.
“I concluded on the expert evidence before me that the missile attacks were intentional,” Ontario Superior Court Justice Edward Belobaba wrote.
Belobaba based his judgment on experts who concluded that, given the: ”multiple redundant systems and procedures to prevent accidental shooting of civilian aircraft,” it is not possible the two missiles were a mistake.
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Shooting down a civilian aircraft constitutes terrorist activity, exposing the Islamic Republic of Iran to civil liability, Belobaba stated. The trial likely marked the first time a Canadian court was asked to decide on punitive damages against another country for lives lost in an act of terrorism, the justice noted.
“The plaintiffs described their grief, their ongoing emotional and psychological problems, their inability to sleep or work and their loss of faith in life itself,” Belobaba wrote. “This court well understands that damage awards are a poor substitute for the lives that were lost. But a monetary award is the only remedy that a civil court can provide.”
The justice emphasized the challenge of putting a dollar value on the suffering of the victims.
“How exactly should a court monetize the terror that both crew and passengers must have felt after being hit by the first missile? And 30 seconds later, by a second missile? And then over the next four minutes as the plane hurled towards earth and inevitable death?” he asked.
Ultimately, the justice ruled that $100 million was the appropriate amount to “punish, deter and condemn.”
Belobaba also awarded $7 million to the plaintiffs for loss of guidance, care and companionship as well as for pain and suffering.
The Islamic Republic of Iran also owes approximately $500 million in outstanding judgments in Ontario and B.C., the justice stated.
The passengers included the Port Coquitlam family of Ardalan Ebnoddin-Hamidi, his wife Niloofar Razzaghi and their 15-year-old son, Kamyar Ebnoddin-Hamidi. The family was on their way back to Canada after spending winter holidays in Iran.
Ardalan was a civil engineer who organized all-candidates meetings to help Iranian-Canadians participate in municipal, provincial and federal elections, according to a CBC profile.
Iran previously attributed the missiles to “human error” while denying any systemic flaws, according to a report in the Washington Post.