Human Rights Watch says families of Flight 752 victims harassed, intimidated by Iran

·2 min read

OTTAWA — A human rights group says in a new report that Iran has harassed families of passengers killed aboard Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752.

Human Rights Watch says from last fall until January, it spoke with 31 family members of victims and "people with direct knowledge" of how Iranian authorities treated relatives.

In all, 176 people were killed when an Iranian surface-to-air missile shot down a passenger jet destined for Kyiv minutes after takeoff near Tehran on Jan. 8, 2020.

Among the dead were 55 Canadians and 30 permanent residents.

Human Rights Watch says those it spoke with say Iranian security agencies have mistreated victims' families through arbitrary detainment, interrogation and intimidation.

It reports 16 people said security officials threatened them not to speak with foreign media or followed relatives and friends who attended memorials.

"Family members said that in several instances, the authorities interfered with burial and memorial services, pressuring families to accept the government’s 'martyrdom' status for their loved ones, and published photos and videos without the permission of the families at services," it read.

One person taken into custody was also tortured, the report says, detailing how in at least three cases family members were told they would face consequences if they didn't remove critical social media posts against the government.

In a statement issued late Thursday, Global Affairs Canada welcomed the report's "efforts to investigate and publicize the completely unacceptable harassment of PS752 families by the Iranian regime."

"The RCMP is aware of reports relating to victim experiencing threats, harassment and intimidation," a spokesman wrote.

"The RCMP wants to ensure that anyone who is concerned for their own immediate safety should contact their local police."

The downing of the flight happened after the United States killed a top Iranian military official, heightening tensions in the region.

Iran initially denied responsibility for the plane crash, but later said it was shot down after being misidentified as a hostile target and done in "human error."

Canada is preparing to negotiate with Iran over repatriations.

Ontario's Superior Court ruled last week that the downing of the jet was an act of terrorism, paving the way for relatives to seek compensation from Iran.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 27, 2021.

Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press