Iran to face US in International Court of Justice to try to release frozen funds
THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AFP) — Iran on Monday begins its legal battle in the UN’s highest court to release billions of dollars in US assets that Washington says should go to victims of the terrorist attacks blamed in Tehran.
The case at the International Court of Justice comes as hopes of reviving a landmark deal – from which former US President Donald Trump withdrew in 2018 – which aimed to tame Iran’s nuclear ambitions wanes. fades.
Tehran took Washington to the Hague-based ICJ in 2016 after the US Supreme Court ordered the freezing of around $2 billion in Iranian assets, ordering the money to go to survivors and relatives of the attacks attributed to the Islamic Republic.
These include the 1983 bombing of a US Navy barracks in Beirut that killed 299 people, including 241 US soldiers, and the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia. which killed 19 people.
Iran, however, said the funds freeze violated the 1955 Treaty of Friendship with the United States, an agreement signed before Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution severed relations between the countries.
Tehran has argued that the United States illegally seized Iranian financial assets and those of Iranian companies – and with Iran’s clerical regime facing economic hardship after sanctions and soaring consumer prices, it is crucial to resolve the case.
In turn, Washington had unsuccessfully tried to disqualify the lawsuit, arguing that Iran’s “unclean hands” – a reference to Tehran’s alleged support of terrorist groups – should disqualify his lawsuit to recover the $2 billion in damages. ‘assets.
The United States announced in October 2018 that it was withdrawing from the friendship treaty after the ICJ, in a separate case, ordered Washington to lift nuclear-related sanctions on humanitarian goods destined for Iran.
The ICJ is the highest court of the United Nations and was created after World War II to resolve disputes between member states. Its decisions are binding and cannot be appealed, but it has no means of enforcing them.
Monday’s hearing, to which U.S. officials are due to respond on Wednesday, comes amid hopes of reviving a 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and the West that grants sanctions relief to Iran in exchange for curtailing its nuclear program are fading.
Former US President Donald Trump pulled out of what he called a “terrible” international nuclear deal in 2018 and began reimposing sanctions, prompting Tehran to backtrack on its commitments under the pact, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA.
Talks have been underway in Vienna since April last year, aimed at restoring the deal by again lifting sanctions on Tehran and pushing Iran to fully honor its obligations.
But nine days ago, European powers raised “serious doubts” about Iran’s sincerity in its pursuit of a nuclear deal, adding that Tehran was continuing to “step up its nuclear program far beyond any plausible civil justification”.
The statement by France, Germany and Britain came a day after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Iran’s latest response to the nuclear deal was a ” step back”.
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell – who had been coordinating the talks for a year and a half – told AFP last week that the talks were at an “impasse”.
Disputes with Iran include Tehran’s insistence that the UN’s nuclear watchdog close an investigation into three undeclared sites suspected of past nuclear work.