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The Guardian

Iranian officials should be charged with downing Ukrainian plane, UN expert says

In letter to Tehran, human rights activist describes six-month investigation into disaster Man lays flowers at memorial service for passengers on Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752, shot down in Iran a year ago, January 8. Photograph: Genya Savilov / AFP / Getty Images Many high-level Iranian officials are set to face charges over the downing of a Ukrainian commercial airliner in January 2020, a UN human rights expert said, describing the murder of the 176 people on board and “serious indictment” of the country’s civil and military authorities. Agnes Callamard, the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, delivered a 45-page letter to the Iranian government that was made public on Tuesday, outlining her findings from a six-month investigation into the disaster and complaining about the lack of Iranian cooperation, which left many of his questions unanswered. Callamard particularly strongly condemned the treatment of the Tehran government of the families of the victims, who she said were harassed and threatened, denied return of remains and personal effects and were forced to accompany an officially organized funeral. for the “martyrs”. Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS752 was shot down by an Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) air defense missile battery shortly after taking off from Tehran International Airport, at a time of high tensions , five days after a US drone strike killed IRGC commander Qassem Suleimani. The plane was bound for Kiev, but had 55 citizens and 30 permanent residents of Canada on board. After denying responsibility for several days, Tehran said the Boeing 737-800 was mistakenly shot down by an air defense crew who mistook it for an incoming US missile. “The inconsistencies in the official explanations seem designed to create a maximum of confusion and a minimum of clarity. They seem contrived to mislead and baffle, ”Callamard said in the letter, which was sent to Tehran 60 days ago with a series of questions, but has yet to be answered. The Iranian mission to the UN did not respond to a request for comment on Tuesday evening. “At best what we have here is a succession of extraordinarily incompetent actions … so much so that they would in my opinion, in criminal court, be described as criminal and reckless,” Callamard told The Guardian. She added that the plane crash was a “deep and grave indictment of Iran, both military and civilian authorities, in terms of violations of their human rights obligations.” The official Iranian account details a series of technical failures and human error that led to the tragedy, but Callamard said they had just raised other questions that Tehran had failed to answer. For example, the official record stated that the mobile missile unit that fired the two Russian-made Tor missiles that downed the airliner had not been properly calibrated, so radar systems showed the aircraft as entering rather than exiting. Callamard said she was not given any explanation as to why this calibration error occurred, why it was not detected or why it led to the missile fire. It was also unclear why the crew did not follow standard operating procedures that would have prevented the launch, why the airport had not been closed at a time of high tension, and why the investigation was botched. The scene of the accident was looted and bulldozed before the arrival of international inspectors. There have been conflicting reports of the arrest and prosecution of the missile crew, but Callamard said: “In terms of accountability, unfortunately we cannot expect Iran to charge those at the bottom. top or even in the middle of the chain of command, and there are a lot of them. senior officials who should be charged. There was no evidence, she added, that Iran had made the fundamental changes necessary to give the rest of the world assurance that the same mistakes would not happen again. Callamard’s letter castigates the Iranian government for the treatment of bereaved families. In many cases, personal items went missing after the accident site and luggage were looted. “Iranian officials have sought to force families to publicly declare their support for the government or risk the non-return of the remains of their relatives,” the letter said. “Many families were also reportedly denied private funerals. The victims were declared deceased “martyrs” for their country. As a result, the funeral was tightly controlled. The inscription “Congratulations on your martyrdom” was placed on the coffins of the victims against the wishes of the families, the letter added. Families in Iran and Canada, he said, have received death threats for criticizing Iran. Callamard told The Guardian that the treatment of grieving families was “cynical, cruel and criminal”. She said she hoped international efforts, especially by Canada and Ukraine, would not be bought off or held hostage by the desire to save the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. Callamard said: “Under no circumstances should the search for justice for PS752 be hampered by the equally important search for a nuclear deal.”

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