THE HAGUE (Dispatches) -- Lawyers for the United States tried on Monday to reject the jurisdiction of the UN’s highest court to resolve a case brought by Iran seeking to lift U.S. sanctions against Tehran.
Iran brought the claim to the International Court of Justice (ICJ), also known as the World Court, in 2018, asking the court to order Washington to lift sanctions against Iran because they breach a decades-old friendship treaty.
Washington has maintained that the real aim of Iran’s legal suit is to restore a 2015 nuclear pact opposed by the administration of President Donald Trump.
Tehran argues that the sanctions, imposed by Washington when it abandoned the 2015 nuclear pact, violate their 1955 "Treaty of Amity”, or bilateral friendship agreement.
After Iran filed two cases based on the treaty against the U.S. at the World Court, Washington announced it was officially withdrawing, but that move was not retroactive and has no effect on this ongoing case.
Hearings this week in The Hague will only deal with the preliminary matter of whether the court has jurisdiction to hear the dispute.
In an earlier case involving Iranian assets frozen by the U.S., the World Court ruled in 2019 that the friendship treaty could provide a legal basis for calling in the top UN court in an Iran-U.S. dispute.
In October, 2018, the court ordered the U.S. to ensure that the sanctions against Iran did not affect humanitarian aid or civil aviation safety.
The ICJ is the United Nations’ highest court for resolving disputes between nations. Its rulings are binding, but it has no power to enforce them.
The treaty was signed before Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution and the sharp deterioration in bilateral ties with Washington.
In February 2019, the ICJ also ruled that Iran can proceed with a legal action to recover billions of dollars in frozen assets that the United States says must be paid to purported American survivors and relatives of victims of attacks spuriously blamed on the Islamic Republic.
The frozen Iranian assets were reportedly part of the Central Bank of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s foreign currency reserves held in Citibank accounts in New York.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Muhammad Javad Zarif has said the seizure of Iran’s frozen assets by the U.S. was "highway robbery”.
Last month, the United States lost the showdown at the United Nations Security Council over extending the terms of the arms embargo against Iran. The U.S. government was left embarrassingly isolated, winning just one other vote for its proposed resolution from the Dominican Republic, while Russia and China voted against and 11 other nations abstained.
In response to the vote, President Donald Trump threatened to snap back sanctions using a measure built into the very nuclear agreement the Trump White House withdrew from two years ago. But the latest gambit by the Trump administration has unsurprisingly been contested by other world powers and the UN, leaving Washington further isolated and humiliated.
Dian Triansyah Djani, the UN Security Council’s president for August, said last month the council was "not in the position to take further action” on the new U.S. push to trigger a "snapback” of all UN sanctions on Iran due to a lack of consensus among the member states to take such measures.