UN Supreme Court rejects Iranian bid to release US-frozen assets

THE HAGUE, Netherlands — The United Nations Supreme Court on Thursday rejected Tehran’s legal bid to release around $2 billion in Iranian central bank assets frozen by US authorities to be given in compensation to victims of a bomb attack in Lebanon 1983 and other related attacks to pay Iran.

By a majority of 10 to 5, the International Court of Justice said it had no jurisdiction to rule on the Iranian claim related to the central Markazi Bank.

World Court Vice-President Kirill Gevorgian said the majority “recognised the jurisdictional objection raised by the United States of America over the claims of the Islamic Republic of Iran” related to the bank.

In a complex 67-page ruling, the World Court also found some other US actions to seize assets from Iran and Iranians in the United States violated a 1955 treaty between the countries and said they should seek compensation negotiate. If they don’t reach a number, they have to return to the court in The Hague for a decision.

But most of the case focused on Bank Markazi and its frozen assets of $1.75 billion in bonds plus accrued interest held in a Citibank account in New York. The court said it had no jurisdiction based on the 1955 Treaty of Friendship because the protections it offers do not extend to central banks.

The teams of lawyers from both countries present at the hearing on Thursday did not comment on the verdict.

At hearings last year, Iran called the asset freeze an attempt to destabilize the Tehran government and a violation of international law.

Iran filed its lawsuit in 2016 before the World Court after the US Supreme Court ruled that central bank funds could be used to compensate the 241 American troops who died in the 1983 bombing, which was believed to have killed he is connected to Tehran.

After the bombing of a US military base in Lebanon, a second explosion killed 58 French soldiers nearby. Iran has denied involvement, but a US District Court judge found Tehran responsible in 2003. The judge’s decision said the then Iranian ambassador to Syria had named “a member of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard” and ordered him to instigate the bombing of the naval barracks.

At last year’s hearings, the head of the US legal team, Richard Visek, urged judges to invoke for the first time a legal principle known as “unclean hands,” according to which a nation cannot bring a case because of its own criminal acts in the case .

However, Thursday’s court ruling dismissed that defense.

Iran argued the asset freeze was a violation of the 1955 Treaty of Friendship, which promised friendship and cooperation between the two countries. The US and Iran have not had diplomatic relations since militant students took over the US embassy in Tehran in 1979.

The judges accepted claims by US attorneys that the central bank’s frozen assets were government holdings, which are not covered by the treaty signed by Washington in 2018 in response to an International Court of Justice order in a separate case lifting some sanctions ended against Iran.

The judgments of the court are final and legally binding.

Source : www.washingtontimes.com

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