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Rescue workers search the scene where an Ukrainian plane crashed in Shahedshahr, southwest of the capital Tehran, on January 8, 2020. Image Credit: AP file

THE HAGUE, Netherlands: The United Kingdom, Canada, Sweden and Ukraine launched a case against Iran at the United Nations’ highest court on Wednesday over the downing in 2020 of a Ukrainian passenger jet and the deaths of all 176 passengers and crew.

The four countries want the International Court of Justice to rule that Iran illegally shot down the Ukraine International Airlines plane and to order Tehran to apologise and pay compensation to the families of the victims.

Flight PS752 was travelling from Tehran to Kyiv on January 8, 2020 when it was shot down soon after takeoff. The people killed included nationals and residents of Canada, Sweden, Ukraine and the United Kingdom, as well as Afghanistan and Iran. Their ages ranged from 1 year to 74 years old.

“Today’s legal action reflects our unwavering commitment to achieving transparency, justice and accountability for the families of the victims,” the countries said in a joint statement Wednesday. They said they filed the case after Iran failed to respond to a December request for arbitration.

Following three days of denials in In January 2020, Iran said its paramilitary Revolutionary Guard mistakenly downed the Ukrainian plane with two surface-to-air missiles. Iranian authorities blamed an air defense operator who they said mistook the Boeing 737-800 for an American cruise missile.

An Iranian court this year sentenced an air defence commander allegedly responsible for the downing to 13 years imprisonment, according to the country’s official judiciary news outlet.

But the countries that filed the case with the world court in The Hague called the prosecution “a sham and opaque trial.”

According to the court filing published Wednesday, the UK, Canada, Sweden and Ukraine argue that Iran “failed to take all practicable measures to prevent the unlawful and intentional commission of an offence” and “failed to conduct an impartial, transparent, and fair criminal investigation and prosecution consistent with international law.”

The filing alleges that Iran withheld or destroyed evidence, blamed other countries and low level Revolutionary Guard personnel, “threatened and harassed the families of the victims seeking justice” and failed to report details of the incident to the International Civil Aviation Organisation.

The downing happened on the same day Iran launched a ballistic missile attack on US troops in Iraq in retaliation for an American drone strike that killed a top Iranian general.

Last week, Iran filed a case against Canada linked to the downing, accusing the North American nation of flouting state immunity in allowing relatives of terrorism victims to seek reparations from the Islamic Republic.