On the anniversary of Iran’s downing of a Ukrainian civilian airliner over Tehran, UN experts have called for urgent measures to protect civilian aircraft flying in conflict zones or areas of high military tensions.

On Jan. 8, 2020, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) shot down Ukraine International Airlines flight PS752 minutes after it had taken off from Tehran to Kiev, killing all 176 passengers.

Agnes Callamard, UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, said in a statement that this incident “highlights the insufficiencies of the international conventions related to air safety, both in preventing military actions against civilian planes, and in ensuring proper investigations should they occur.” 

She added: “This preventable tragedy requires urgent action from all stakeholders including States and airlines.”

Her statement presented a range of recommendations that she said would enhance civilians’ safety and protect their right to life.

One of those recommendations is that in the event that a civilian aircraft is attacked militarily, “the State that launched the military attack is not solely in charge of the investigation.”

Callamard also said countries with civilians involved in an incident “should have full status as participants in the investigation, because of their obvious State interest.”

These points appear to have been prompted by Tehran’s reluctance to share details of its own investigation into the downing of the Ukrainian airliner. 

In the wake of the missile strike, Iranian state media reported that the plane crash was caused by “technical failure following a fire” on the jet.

Iran’s civil aviation authority refused to send the plane’s flight recorders to its manufacturer Boeing for analysis.

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Under global aviation rules, Iran had the right to solely lead the investigation, and it denied the Ukrainian president’s request that his country also be involved once it became clear that Tehran knew immediately that its own missiles were responsible for the aircraft’s downing. 

Callamard said: “The many failings of the existing international system and institutions demonstrates the urgent need for a completely independent body (from both States and airlines) to monitor air safety in relation to conflicts.” She added: “We must act now to prevent future incidents and save lives.”

Linus Bauer, managing director of Bauer Aviation Advisory, told Arab News that the UN’s suggested rules are “long overdue.”

He said while the aviation system broadly remains safe and secure, events such as the downing of flight PS752 have raised many questions about gaps in the overall management of airspace. 

Iran’s downing of the Ukrainian jet, Bauer added, shows that countries “across the globe need to consider the prevention of attacks against international civil aviation as a high priority, through a multi-layered approach with an emphasis based on both ground and airspace security.”



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