Vancouver resident Arman Abtahi can’t remember much about the tragic day he learned that his brother Mehran, a post-doctoral environmental engineer at the University of British Columbia, was killed in the downing of Ukraine Airlines flight PS752.
The shock was so severe, Arman said, that much of that horrific day ended up being a blur.
“I remember I called my parents but we were not talking, we were just on the line, silent,” Abtahi said.
The paralysis of grief transformed into action, with Abtahi seeking justice for his brother and all the victims on that doomed flight.
Canada, Sweden, Ukraine and the United Kingdom have said they will refer Iran to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) over the 2020 downing of a Ukrainian International Airlines Flight over Tehran that killed all 176 people on board, the vast majority of them Canadian citizens and permanent residents.
The four countries announced the move Thursday after the deadline passed for Iran to submit arbitration under the Montreal Convention.
“It’s long a journey but this is one step closer to justice,” Abtahi said.
Surrey resident Shahrokh Ferdowsi lost his cousin, dentist Dr. Farhad Niknam in the disaster, and told Global News in November 2022 the only thing that would help bring peace was “when we can find the Islamic Regime guilty of shooting down all these innocent people.”
Seven months later, with Canada initiating the World Court process, he said he felt there was finally movement on that front.
“At least this way we can force them to come forward and answer these question why did they do this,” he said.
On Thursday, Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly posted to social media to say the country was taking action.
“Time is up. We will proceed with taking Iran to the International Court of Justice over the downing of Flight PS752, as we promised to the families of the victims,” Joly wrote.
The announcement came a day after the ICJ, also known as the World Court, announced that Iran had filed a complaint against Canada over state immunity.
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Iranian-Canadian lawyer Kaveh Shahrooz, who is part of the legal committee that assists the Association of Flight752 Families, said Iran’s move could “only been seen as reprisal.”
“Canada is claiming that Iran has not investigated the crime in good faith. That it hasn’t negotiated in good faith and that simply is not telling the truth,” Shahrooz said.
Shahrooz has a personal reason for pursuing justice: his family is also a victim of the Islamic Republic regime.
“My uncle, in the 1980s, was arrested at a very young age and executed after suffering horrendous torture and not having anything resembling due process,” Shahrooz said.
“To this day I seek justice for him and know there are thousands of other families that want justice in similar cases.”
Shahrooz said he’s filled with hope but also said it’s a tragedy that so many people had to die before the case could be pursued internationally.
The families of the victims of Flight 752 are finding comfort in their efforts to hold Iran accountable at the World Court, and say they won’t relent as they keep pushing for justice.
© 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
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