January 8 marks the first anniversary of the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) shooting down flight PS752, a passenger leaving Iran to Ukraine, killing all 176 people aboard. While the regime and its apologists claim the downing was the result of “human error,” evidence show this tragic incident could have been prevented.
Also, the international community has failed in delivering justice for the families of the victims, and Iran’s top officials responsible for this crime are enjoying impunity.
On January 8, IRGC surface-to-air missiles shot down the Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752. For three consecutive days, the regime’s officials tried to blame the crash on a technical malfunction in the plan’s engines. Later, evidence, including footages, confirmed the plane was shot down by the IRGC.
The regime’s officials were compelled to acknowledge the crime on January 11, with the regime’s president Hassan Rouhani and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei claiming they were not aware of the incident.
Shortly afterward, IRGC Aerospace chief Amir Ali Hajizadeh admitted he had informed the regime’s top officials including Khamenei and Rouhani on the day of the incident.
Protests erupted in several Iranian cities on January 11, asking for accountability for the perpetrators of this crime. The protesters mainly targeted Rouhani and Khamenei in their slogans and repeated the same slogans of “death to dictator,” which they had previously chanted during the November 2019 major Iran protests.
January 11 – Tehran, #Iran
Large crowd outside Amir Kabir University
"I will kill he who killed my brother!"
This is a clear warning to the mullahs' regime.#IranProtests pic.twitter.com/WfC6lStKgA
— People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) (@Mojahedineng) January 11, 2020
Studies of the airliner’s black box later revealed 25 seconds has passed between the initial missile strike and the second missile fired at the airliner. The first missile had not completely damaged the engines, and the pilot was trying to go back to the airport, when the IRGC fired the second missile.
It is hard to imagine the last moments of the 176 passengers on that flight in those 25 seconds.
On December 14, family members of the victims gathered at Tehran’s Military Court to protest the regime’s inaction. They questioned the regime’s ignorance and cover-up and blamed it for the disasters that led to the death of their loved ones.
“How can a bunch of criminals participate in this investigation? You are unable to cooperate for an investigation to clarify the facts,” the father of Maryam Malek, one of the victims, told the judge.
The regime’s officials have refused to investigate this crime, fearing the international consequences. All the while, the international community has also failed to hold this regime to account for its past crimes, thus rendering systematic impunity to the regime for the past 41 years.
Seven United Nations experts wrote a letter to the regime in September, which was published in December, over the 1988 massacre of 30,000 political prisoners. While underlining the 1988 massacre may amount to “crimes against humanity,” they emphasized that “To date, no official in Iran has been brought to justice and many of the officials involved continue to hold positions of power including in key judicial, prosecutorial and government bodies responsible for ensuring the victims receive justice.”
The UN experts’ letter also pointed out that the international community’s failure to act “had a devastating impact on the survivors and families as well as on the general situation of human rights in Iran and emboldened Iran to continue to conceal the fate of the victims and to maintain a strategy of deflection and denial that continue to date.”
“There is a systemic impunity enjoyed by those who ordered and carried out the extrajudicial executions and enforced disappearances,” the UN experts wrote.
This systematic impunity has continued until now. The regime massacred over 1500 protesters during the November 2019 uprising, but no one has been held to account.
So, it is no surprise that after a year, those responsible for the downing of the Ukrainian passenger jet, mainly the IRGC chain of command up to Khamenei, are enjoying impunity despite their hideous crime in killing 176 innocent souls.
The time has come for the international community to hold the regime to account for its crimes. The international community could set a precedent by holding the regime’s leaders to account for their role in downing the Ukrainian airliner, killing 1500 defenseless protesters in November 2019, and the 1988 massacre. This can prevent the regime from further committing crimes against humanity.