UN court has jurisdiction to hear part of Iran-US dispute

The U.S. State Department

The U.S. State Department

The International Court of Justice on Wednesday will give its decision on a bid by Iran to recover $2 billion in frozen assets that the United States says must be paid to terror victims.

The court, in an 11-4 majority ruling, upheld a USA objection to its jurisdiction based on state immunity claimed by Iran, however they unanimously rejected Washington's assertion that measures freezing Iranian assets fell outside the scope of the treaty.

The US Supreme Court awarded the money to victims of a 1983 bombing in Lebanon and other attacks linked to Iran.

Chief judge Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf said the UN's top court "unanimously rejects the preliminary objections to admissibility raised by the United States of America".

The court also "finds that it has jurisdiction" to rule on the case, which was filed by Iran in 2016, Yusuf said at the end of an hour-long reading of the judgment.

Like the sanctions case, Iran is basing its claim to recover impounded funds on a 1955 Amity Treaty with the United States, which was signed 24 years before its Islamic Revolution.

The court ruling was in response to a motion by the United States for the court to throw out the claim by Iran to recover some $2 billion in bank assets seized by USA courts. It includes a clause that sends unresolved disputes about interpretation of the treaty to the world court.

In this Wednesday Oct. 3 2018 image The delegations of the U.S. front left and the Islamic Republic of Iran front right rise as judges rear enter the International Court of Justice or World Court in The Hague Netherlands
Washington Tells UN Court to Scrap Tehran's Lawsuit on Frozen Assets

The ruling came amid high tensions between Washington and Tehran after President Donald Trump pulled America out of the nuclear deal previous year. Its rulings are binding and can not be appealed, but it has no means of enforcing them.

The ruling may also have implications for a second case at the court in which Iran is contesting United States sanctions against Tehran. Tehran is seeking to regain funds that were impounded during the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran. Tehran claims that this decision violated the 1955 US-Iranian Treaty of Amity.

He also said the fact that the U.S. had now pulled out of the amity treaty with Iran "has no effect on the jurisdiction of the court" and that it now needed to hold detailed hearings.

Iran first lodged the case on the frozen funds in June 2016, accusing Washington of breaking the decades-old bilateral treaty dating from the time of the US-backed shah, who was deposed in the revolution.

In 2018, Iran won a legal victory when the ICJ ruled the U.S. must lift sanctions against Tehran targeting humanitarian goods such as food and medicine.

The Trump administration has also found itself at odds with its European allies over the nuclear deal, with EU powers launching a mechanism to bypass sanctions.

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