Transport minister condemns Iran over shootdown of Flight PS752


For the first time, Transport Minister Omar Alghabra publicly condemned Iran in a speech at a session of a UN aviation agency’s council on Friday, more than 17 months after the deadly shootdown of Flight PS752.

It was the strongest language Alghabra has used to date while speaking in front of the International Civil Aviation Agency’s (ICAO) council and is part of a symbolic gesture that victims’ families in Canada have long called for. 

“I wish to publicly condemn the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran, in the strongest terms, for its actions that led to 176 innocent people being killed and for its handling of the tragedy and its failure to provide answers afterwards,” Alghabra said in a speech delivered virtually.

The statement comes ahead of Canada releasing its own forensic report collating all unclassified evidence and intelligence about the downing of the plane. 

Since the tragedy first unfolded the families have called on the ICAO’s 36-member council to unanimously adopt a resolution condemning the downing of the Ukraine International Airlines flight.

Hamed Esmaeilion’s wife Parisa Eghbalian and their daughter Reera Esmaeilion died on Flight PS752 on Jan. 8, 2020. (Tirgan/Facebook via The Canadian Press)

The council adopted a resolution out of solidarity for the victims’ families in 2014 within months of the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine. 

The ICAO council needs to do the same thing after Canada’s forensic report is out, says Hamed Esmaeilion, the spokesperson for the association representing victims’ families in Canada.

“Silence is complacency,” Esmaeilion said Friday on Twitter. 

Esmaeilion testified at a parliamentary committee earlier this month and accused the countries making up the council of acting “very passively.” 

Canada’s past foreign affairs minister, François-Philippe Champagne, has said he does not believe human error was to blame. However, Canada has not released any evidence or information to date suggesting Iran intentionally shot down Flight PS752.

The prime minister’s former adviser on PS752, Ralph Goodale, has said what is clear is that incompetence played a role. 

Alghabra said he has personally met with many of the victims’ families and wants ICAO’s council to hear from them too.

“Every day since this Jan. 8, 2020, they have had to look at empty chairs at the dinner table, and to pass bedrooms that are no longer being used,” Alghabra said in his speech. “They look to us to provide them answers, and to ensure that no other family has to do the same in the future.”

The minister said Iran was responsible for ensuring the airspace was safe and that it failed to prevent the downing.

Canada plans to release its own forensic examination report, piecing together all available intelligence and evidence for victims’ families. (Social media video via Reuters)

“Despite lessons learned and recommendations from recent tragedies such as MH17, Iran failed to recognize the danger of their ongoing military operations,” he said. “They did not take all practical measures to prevent this tragedy.

“In the case of PS752, there were clear conflicts of interest, which manifested in multiple ways and affected the credibility of Iran’s investigation and report.”

Alghabra also updated the council on Canada’s Safer Skies Initiative to help improve aviation safety in or near conflict zones. He said Canada plans to present a working paper at an upcoming ICAO high-level conference on COVID-19. The paper will propose changes to improve aviation incident investigations based on the serious flaws exposed in this case. 

“Without such answers, how can we ever be confident that Iran’s airspace is safe for international civil aviation and that we are doing all we can to prevent another tragedy?” he said.

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