Including the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist entity would undermine Trudeau’s government efforts to properly investigate the Iranian plane crash, says Canada’s last ambassador to the country.
The immediate priority of the government should be to support Canadian families and repatriate the remains of accident victims, along with the work of Canadian investigators on the ground, said Dennis Horak, sent from Canada to Iran when the two countries cut diplomatic relations in 2012..
“Introducing additional (horror) listings at this point would be counterproductive,” Horak told The Canadian Press on Monday. “The Iranians, for example, might believe that the accident investigation team is looking to gather evidence for future legal cases against them.”
Horak said the government can focus its attention later on making Iran pay for Canada’s losses.
“There will be time to address the need for accountability once these initial stages are carried out. That effort should focus on the next stage to ensure compensation directly from Iran consistent with Islamic law and tradition. That will require negotiations, but probably be the best way to ensure some measure of compensation for families, “said Horak, who ended his career as a Saudi Arabian envoy from Canada and was widely regarded as one of the best government analysts in the Middle East.
Horak was responding to the new demands of Canadian Jewish and Iranian organizations for the government to list the Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist entity after the demolition of a Ukrainian plane in Iran last week.
David Matas, the principal lawyer of B’nai Brith Canada, said Monday that the terrorist list would remove a legal obstacle and allow Canadian victims to sue the Iranian government under the Justice for Terrorism Victims Act.
It was not a new request, but it could be a way to compensate the families of the deceased when the PS752 flight from Ukraine International Airlines was shot down by an Iranian missile moments after taking off from Tehran last Wednesday.
The 176 on board were killed, including 57 Canadians. There were 138 people on the plane heading to Canada.
The Canadian press has independently confirmed at least 86 victims with ties to Canada, many of them students and teachers who returned after spending the December holidays visiting relatives in Iran.
Canada has already designated the al-Quds branch of the Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist entity, Matas said, so he must follow and enumerate the entire organization. The Quds paramilitary force is largely responsible for the operations of the group outside the borders of Iran.
“If the IRGC commits a terrorist act, but not the Quds Force, a lawsuit is not possible,” said Matas.
The burden of proof
Liberal and conservative deputies voted in the House of Commons in June 2018 to include the entire Revolutionary Guard, but the government has not yet acted.
But Horak said the current terrorism law, if amended, might not be the best means for victims to seek reparation from Iran because Canada would have to prove that the plane’s demolition was an intentional act of terrorism, which would be difficult.
It is not clear how Canadian victims would be able to collect an agreement if they ever reached such a claim because there simply aren’t many Iranian assets left to claim, he said.
“As I understand it, there are no more assets to seize at this time,” Horak said, because most of the money seized from past Iranian properties has been disbursed.
The Canadian government has the right to confiscate Iranian assets in Canada, but is not authorized to seize diplomatic property, such as buildings or embassy properties.
Matas said the government has seized millions of Iranian assets in the past, including a cultural center, but added: “It may be difficult to raise in the future.”
Matas said there is more at stake than just money.
“To some extent, what we are talking about here is not money, but principle. And the principle is a terrorist, it is a terrorist, it is a terrorist.”
Avideh Motmaen-Far, president of the Council of Iranian Canadians, said the plane’s demolition makes it more urgent for Canada to take more action against the Revolutionary Guard.
“This terrorist action, intentionally or not, executed by the IRGC, (emphasized and confirmed) once again the terrorist nature of this organization that does not respect the lives of civilians,” he said.