Iran goes to UN's highest court over re-imposed US sanctions

Geraldine Edwards
August 28, 2018

"The United States is publicly propagating a policy meant to damage as severely as possible Iran's economy and Iranian nationals and companies", Iranian lawyer Mohsen Mohebi told International Court of Justice in The Hague.

Iran has asked the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to lift the sanctions imposed by the USA after it abandoned the deal on Tehran's nuclear programme.

Iran filed the case with the International Court of Justice in July, claiming that sanctions the Trump administration imposed on May 8 breach a 1955 bilateral agreement known as the Treaty of Amity that regulates economic and consular ties between the two countries.

He said Iran's lawsuit was "an attempt to interfere with the sovereign rights of the United States to take lawful actions, including re-imposition of sanctions, which are necessary to protect our national security". He said they were needed to ensure Iran never builds a nuclear bomb.

United States lawyers are expected to argue the United Nations court should not have jurisdiction in the dispute, that the friendship treaty is no longer valid, and the sanctions Washington levied against Tehran do not violate the deal. But Iran's representative Mohsen Mohebi branded them "naked economic aggression".

Iran's currency the rial has lost around half its value since April.

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Both airlines reinstated the route in the wake of the Obama-era nuclear deal, which lifted economic sanctions on Tehran in return for curbs on its nuclear programme.

Iran's 2015 nuclear deal, brokered when Barack Obama was still in the White House, imposed restrictions on the Islamic Republic's nuclear program in return for the lifting of most USA and worldwide sanctions against Tehran.

The move angered Washington, which said the package is "sending the wrong message" and is apparently undermining its efforts to isolate Iran with unilateral sanctions.

A second wave of punitive measures are due to hit Iran in early November, targeting its vital energy sector including oil exports.

A raft of global companies - including France's Total, Peugeot and Renault, and Germany's Siemens and Daimler - have suspended operations in Iran in the wake of the move. A final decision in the case may take years.

The ICJ president Abdulqawi Yusuf heads a 15-judge panel hearing Iran's case.

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Air France and British Airways announced last week that they would halt flights to Tehran next month, saying they were not commercially viable.

The flagship airlines did not put the blame on the return of US sanctions directly for their decisions but said that the route is "not commercially viable".

"Turkey is a leading country among those we have good relations with", he told Iran's state television.

The United States, which will respond formally in oral arguments on Tuesday, has yet to issue a public response. Experts expect the United States to challenge the ICJ's jurisdiction.

It was signed at a time of close relations between Washington and Tehran, a long before the 1979 Islamic Revolution brought about decades of hostility between the two.

The ICJ was set up in 1946 to rule in disputes between countries.

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