164- Certain Iranian Assets (Islamic Republic of Iran vs United States of America)
On June 14th, 2016, the Islamic Republic of Iran filed an application instituting proceedings against the United States of America before the International Court of Justice (the ICJ or the Court) for alleged violation of the Treaty of Friendship, Commerce and Consular Rights (the Treaty of Friendship) signed on August 15th, 1955 by the two countries.
In this case, Iran asserts that the United States has put in place a number of measures that have had either for purpose or effect to impede the ability of Iran and Iranian companies to dispose of or enjoy their property and assets, both on Iranian territory and abroad, including on American soil. According to the applicant State, the US government, basing its decisions on various legislations such as the Foreign State Immunity Act in its amended version, or the 2002 Terrorism Risks Insurance Act, has granted and continues to grant claims for damages before US courts in violation of the principle of immunity from jurisdiction. At the time of the introduction of this application, Iran had already been ordered to pay damages totalling $56 billion. The United States have seized and plans to seize the blocked assets belonging to the Islamic Republic and certain companies with a legal personality separate from the Iranian state in certain banks located in different institutions around the world. These decisions according to Iran, would contradict the principle of immunity from jurisdiction, namely the prohibition of bringing an action against a sovereign State before the national courts of another State, are made possible by the American position that immunity from jurisdiction and the consequences thereof do not apply to States supporting terrorism, characterization applied to Iran by the United States.
The applicant State asserts that the American laws, the decisions already rendered, enforced or in the process of being rendered and the position of the United States Government are in violation of the Treaty of Amity signed between the two countries in 1955 and entered into force in 1957. This instrument provides, inter alia, that each of the two States recognizes the legal status of companies of capital or persons formally incorporated. Iran contends that the rights of Iranian companies and banks have been or are in the process of being abolished by the above-mentioned United States legislation. In addition, the Treaty of Friendship specifies that each of the High Contracting Parties shall guarantee free access to justice and other administrative bodies in its territory to nationals and companies of the other Party in order to defend or assert its rights under conditions no less favourable than those granted to its own nationals or to those of any third country. Iran notes that by denying Markazi Bank and other institutions the immunity they might otherwise avail themselves of under international and U.S. law, as well as the right to take legal action to defend themselves, the U.S. Government is in breach of its obligations under the Treaty of Amity. The instrument also provides for protection, security, freedom of trade, non-discrimination and fair, equitable and non-arbitrary treatment of nationals of the parties, obligations not respected by the United States vis-à-vis Iran and Iranian companies.
The United States raised preliminary objections challenging the jurisdiction of the ICJ as well as the admissibility of the application. In its judgment of February 13th, 2019, the Court upheld a single preliminary objection by the respondent State and defined the parameters of its jurisdiction.
This summary is provided for informational purposes only, does not involve the responsibility of Dome and should in no way be used as a substitute for a careful reading of the judgment and order of the case.