Iran has sued Canada in the highest court of the United Nations, accusing it of flouting state immunity by allowing relatives of victims of terrorism to seek compensation from the Islamic Republic.
In the case announced Wednesday by the International Court of Justice, Tehran argues that Canada is ‘bound to respect the jurisdictional immunity enjoyed by Iran under international law’ and should not allow civil suits against Iran “for alleged support of terrorism or acts of terrorism”.
Canada should also not allow its courts to recognize foreign judgments in Iran-related terrorism cases and has no right to seize Iranian assets to enforce such judgments, according to the document.
Among the Canadian cases cited in the Iranian document is an Ontario Superior Court ruling that the Iranian military’s January 8, 2020 downing of Ukraine International Airlines flight PS752 using two surface-to-air missiles constituted an “act of terrorism”. All 176 people on board were killed.
More than 100 of the Iranian victims had Canadian citizenship or residency, prompting some families of the victims to sue Iran in Canadian civil court.
Designating this event as an act of terrorism allowed a group of families to circumvent Iran’s legal immunity and seek compensation for the losses suffered. Foreign countries are generally immune from prosecution in Canadian courts.
The court awarded a total of C$107 million ― C$7 million in compensatory damages, in addition to C$100 million in punitive damages ― plus interest to the families who brought the lawsuit in Ontario.
Hours before the crash, Iran fired ballistic missiles at US bases in Iraq in retaliation for the US drone attack that killed Iranian General Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad.
After several days of denial, the Revolutionary Guards, an Iranian paramilitary organization, publicly apologized and blamed the event on an air defense operator who authorities say mistook the Boeing 737-800 for a missile American cruise ship.
The proceedings initiated by Iran before the International Court of Justice, based at the Peace Palace in The Hague, are likely to last for years. The Court’s decisions are final and legally binding.