That’s what Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canadians were looking for in light of revelations that the tragic crash of Ukrainian Airlines Flight 752 was likely caused by an Iranian surface-to-air missile.
In a news conference on Thursday, Trudeau called on Iran to allow for a thorough investigation into the crash, which claimed the lives of 176 people including 63 Canadians just minutes after taking of from Tehran Wednesday.
“I want answers,” the prime minister said in Ottawa, suggesting the plane may have been shot down accidentally. “That means closure, transparency, accountability and justice, and this government will not rest until we get that.”
But what leverage does Canada have to force Iran to co-operate? And what might “justice” for the victims and families look like?
According to legal and international relations experts, answers – and justice – will be far from easy to obtain.
“This is a really tricky spot, because there’s just really few levers that Canada can pull here that will have any kind of quick response,” said Leah West, a professor at Carleton’s Norman Paterson School of International Affairs and a former national security lawyer.
Canada could take the matter to the International Court of Justice — as Iran did in the 1980s and 90s, after the U.S. shot down an Iranian passenger jet in 1988. That case ended in a settlement in 1996, with the U.S. government agreeing to pay $61.8 million to victims’ families.
“That would be an option if there continues to be that evidence that supports the running theory that Iran accidentally shot the plane down and a complete investigation into what happened is not done,” West said in an interview.
While multiple investigations run their course, the question of blame — and therefore justice — is premature, according to Roland Paris, an international affairs professor at the University of Ottawa.
“That’s going to be a very difficult decision for a regime that has faced violent popular protests, a decision to accept the likely finding that it accidentally killed Iranian civilians in a civilian plane,” Paris, a former adviser to Trudeau, said in an interview.
“At this stage, establishing the facts are really the most important thing, and that moving into a discussion of justice, of judicial consequences, is premature. The goal now is to persuade the Iranian government is to permit all the facts to be collected and rigorously analyzed.”
The key issue after those investigations run their course is restitution for the families of the victims, said Fen Hampson, the director of the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs at Carleton.
“(But) I wouldn’t be under any illusions that that’s going to be an easy sell to the Iranians, because right now it looks like they’re not willing to … admit culpability beyond returning bodies and allowing some kind of access to the crash site,” Hampson said.
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“But I think the fact that both (U.S. President Donald) Trump and Trudeau both said that this was a mistake … they’re leaving the Iranians enough wiggle room to come clean and say yes it was indeed a mistake.”
With a file from the Star’s wire services.