International Relations

Iran is being hauled before the International Court of Justice (ICJ)

  • The United Kingdom, Canada, Sweden, and Ukraine have jointly filed legal actions against Iran at the International Court of Justice, the United Nations’ highest court.
  • The case is about the catastrophic downing of a Ukrainian passenger jet in 2020, which killed all 176 passengers and crew members.
  • Iran was just admitted to the SCO.
About the International Court of Justice (ICJ)
EstablishmentAlso called World Court, was established in 1945. Began its operations in 1946. Located in The Hague, Netherlands.
PurposeTo settle legal disputes between member states and provide advisory opinions on legal questions referred to it by authorized UN organs and specialized agencies.
Composition15 judges elected by the UN General Assembly and the Security Council. Judges serve for a term of 9 years and can be re-elected.
Judicial IndependenceOperates independently of the UN. Its decisions are binding on the parties involved in a dispute. Member states are obligated to comply with ICJ judgments.
JurisdictionOver cases submitted to it by sovereign states. Can only hear cases if both parties involved in the dispute have consented to its jurisdiction. Provides advisory opinions to UN organs and specialized agencies.
CasesDisputes over territorial boundaries, maritime rights, human rights violations, interpretation of treaties, and state responsibility. It has jurisdiction over both contentious cases and advisory proceedings.
Legal SystemsApplies two primary sources of law:  International treaties and customary international law. Considers general principles of law and judicial decisions as subsidiary sources.
ProceedingsICJ proceedings are public unless the court decides otherwise or the parties involved agree on privacy.
Binding Nature of JudgmentsICJ judgments are legally binding on the parties involved in a dispute. If a state fails to comply with a judgment, the matter can be brought to the attention of the UN Security Council for further action.
Enforcement MechanismICJ lacks its own enforcement mechanism, and it relies on the voluntary compliance of states with its judgments. However, the UN Security Council has the power to take measures to enforce ICJ rulings.
AccessibilityAccessible to all member states of the UN. Non-member states can also become parties to cases.

International Reaction to Tragedy

  • Flight PS752: Information on the Ukrainian passenger jet that flew from Tehran to Kyiv on January 8, 2020.
  • Shooting: Shortly after departure, the jet was shot down.
  • Nationalities: Among the dead were people of all ages from Canada, Sweden, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, Afghanistan, and Iran.

Iran’s Acceptance and Subsequent Actions

  • Failed Arbitration Request: The complaint was filed because Iran did not respond to the arbitration request.
  • Initial Denials: Iran originally denied culpability for the downing, but later confirmed that the Revolutionary Guard shot down the airliner by mistake with two surface-to-air missiles.
  • Authorities in Iran blamed the incident on an air defence operator who apparently mistaken the Boeing 737-800 for an American cruise missile.
  • Judicial Reaction: For his suspected role in the downing, an Iranian court condemned an air defence commander to 13 years in prison.
  • Critique of the Trial: The countries that filed the lawsuit slammed the prosecution, calling it a “sham and opaque trial.”

Allegations levelled against Iran 

  • Lack of Preventive Measures: According to the plaintiffs, Iran failed to take the essential precautions to prevent the purposeful conduct of an offence.
  • Inadequate Investigation and Prosecution: Iran is accused of conducting a criminal investigation that is not impartial, transparent, or fair, in violation of international law.
  • Evidence Destruction: Allegations have been made that Iran withheld or destroyed critical evidence relating to the incident.
  • Family Harassment: Iran has been accused of threatening and harassing the families of victims who sought justice.
  • Failure to submit: Iran failed to submit critical event details to the International Civil Aviation Organisation.
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