Justice for Victims of a “Plane Crash”

Hamed Esmaeilion’s life was turned upside down two years ago when his wife Parisa Eghbalian and their nine-year old daughter Reera boarded Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 from Tehran to fly back to Canada via Kyiv. I was preparing my house for them to return,” Mr Esmaeilion recalls the plane crash. He wanted it ready to go for him when he picked them up at the airport the next morning.

They would be gone forever in a plane crash

“Now, my life is empty. “Emptiness” is the word,” Mr Esmaeilion said to the BBC. “That’s all I have. It’s all I can concentrate on.

Reera and Parisa were both among the 176 victims of an Iranian anti-aircraft missile attack that struck the airliner on January 8, 2020. It sent it plunging into a field and park nine miles (15 km) north of Tehran’s airport.

This incident occurred amid increased tensions in the area following the US killing top Iranian general Qasem Solimani in Baghdad. A retaliatory Iranian missile attack on Iraqi bases housing US forces also led to the increase in tensions.

Mr Esmaeilion, and other victims of a plane crash, say they still seek justice and hope the Canadian government will do more to help them.

“The only thing that I have is this case,” stated Mr Esmaeilion. He is now the president and spokesperson of the Canada-based Association of Families of Flight PS752 Victims. It’s the same for most of the family members.

Among the 138 people who died in the crash of the plane, 55 were Canadian citizens, and 30 were permanent residents. 29 children, 53 students from universities, four newlywed couples and eight families were among the dead.

Iran’s Civil Aviation Organisation released a March document that reiterated its claim, first made in the previous year, that the “human error” caused the plane crash of the airliner.

The Canadian government released later in June the results of its investigation into the downing PS752. It found that Iran’s government was “fully liable” but that there was no evidence suggesting that the incident had been premeditated.

In November, Iran’s judiciary declared that 10 Iranian military personnel were being tried for their involvement in the downing of PS752. Families of the victims have not been told about the identities and roles of the men in trial. The trial hearings are expected to continue through 2022.

The trial was attended by the ambassador of Ukraine to Tehran. He declined to attend due to Iran’s inability to fulfil its “obligations under international airplane crash law” or provide information.

The Canadian report is in sharp contrast to the one released by Association of Families. It claims that Iran is using passenger flights as human shields against American attack, and deliberately refuses to allow civilian flights into [Iranian] Airspace.

It also charges Iranian authorities with tampering on electronic devices found in the wreckage PS752 as well as mishandling and misidentifying the remains of victims.

BBC did not request comment from Iran’s Foreign Ministry

Edmonton resident Daniel Ghods–Esfahani, whose 21 year-old girlfriend, Saba Saadat, also died on PS752 with her sister, mother, and father, told the BBC about the plane crash that the Iranian government had “no expectations” of family members of the victims.

“Just take a look at the nature and purpose of that regime. He said that they are not known for being transparent in their actions. “Justice does not seem to be a word in their vocabulary.”

Mr Ghods-Esfahani, on the other hand, stated that the families of the victims of the crash plane have “high expectations” for the Canadian government.

He said, “As a Canadian myself I expect the government will stand up to its citizens and to uphold the ideals of justice.” “Unfortunately, the Canadian government has not done that in a very effective way over the last few years.”

Family members of victims’ victims are asking for the government to put more pressure on Iran to release additional evidence. They also want an international investigation and appeals to the International Court of Justice or International Criminal Court (ICAO).

They are calling for a criminal investigation by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and economic sanctions aimed towards specific Iranian officials. Currently, the Quds Force of the IRGC – which runs its clandestine operations overseas – is not included.

Family members of the deceased have tried to hold the responsible party for the crash of the PS752 plane. They used a range of legal avenues, including those that target the Ukrainian Revolutionary Guard and the missile operator John Doe.

After determining that the incident was an act of terror, an Ontario court awarded $107m in damages (PS79m) to six families. Mark Arnold, a lawyer representing the plaintiffs, told CBC News later that it would be difficult to collect the money and that he “begging” Canada for help in holding Iran responsible.

Canada, along with the UK, Sweden and Ukraine in a plane crash, sought international legal reparations from Iran.

Iran has so far refused negotiations. All four of the countries involved in negotiations with Iran announced their abandonment on 6 January. They stated that they have concluded that any attempts to negotiate with Iran were futile and pledged to “focus upon subsequent actions to resolve this matter in accordance to international law”.

The countries didn’t specify any additional steps they might be taking in the future.

A spokesperson for Global Affairs Canada said that the downing PS752 was a Canadian tragedy and that they were committed to finding answers and seeking justice. On Friday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met with the families privately.

Canada’s response was inadequate for some who lost loved ones or friends to the disaster.

“We want them fighting for Canadians,” Mr Esmaeilion stated. “This terrorist attack on Canadians is the second most severe in Canada’s history …. they could have done more. We are still waiting.

The problem has remained unsolved for entire Canadian communities and households.

Edmonton was one of the most affected, as 13 members of the close-knit Iranian Canadian community were killed.

Reza Akbari, the former president of Edmonton’s Iranian Heritage Society of Edmonton, said that the biggest surprise to everyone was the fact that every Iranian-Canadian in Canada could see that it could be them.

Mr Akbari, who lost a friend in PS752, recalled that his wife had flown from Tehran two weeks prior to the crash. He stated that they had discussed the possibility of her staying longer in Iran and booking a flight on PS752.

He said, “I still get goosebumps when I think about that.” “Our lives could have been completely different,” he said.

For his part, Mr Esmaeilion said that the search for justice was the only thing that propels him forward in the past two years.

It’s not just me. He said that all his family members are now like international lawyers and airline pilots. I can’t focus on reading a book. That’s gone. If it’s related to the plane, I can take it.” “This is the most essential thing. This is my life.

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