The UN’s top court on Thursday ruled that the US violated international law by freezing assets owned by Iranian companies.
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) ordered Washington to pay compensation to Tehran, but the amount has yet to be determined, and the court has no way of enforcing its rulings.
Iran brought the case to the ICJ, seeking to unlock $1.75 billion in frozen central bank funds. However, the court ruled the central bank funds were outside of its jurisdiction.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the verdict “shows once again the legitimacy” of Iran’s positions and the “illegal behavior of the United States.” But since the court said it did not have jurisdiction over the frozen funds, the US also took the ruling as a victory.
“This is a major victory for the United States and victims of Iran’s state-sponsored terrorism,” said Rich Visek, the acting legal advisor of the State Department. He said the “vast majority of Iran’s case” was related to the frozen central bank funds.
Iran brought the case to the ICJ in 2016 and said by freezing assets to compensate victims of terror attacks Washington claims were linked to Tehran, the US violated a 1955 treaty of friendship, known as the Treaty of Amity, that was signed following the 1953 CIA-backed coup in Iran.
The Trump administration withdrew from the Treaty of Amity in 2018, but the court said the US still violated the agreement because it was a party to the treaty when the funds were frozen. “The court has concluded the United States violated its obligations under … the treaty of amity,” an ICJ judge said.
The court ruled the central bank funds were outside of its jurisdiction because only commercial enterprises were protected by the treaty.