US urges UN tribunal to dismiss our Iranian frozen assets case

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By MIKE CORDER, Associated Press

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — The United States on Wednesday urged the International Court of Justice to dismiss a case brought by Iran seeking to recover about $2 billion in frozen Iranian assets that the Supreme Court of States granted to victims of a 1983 bombing. Lebanon bombings and other Tehran-related bombings.

The head of the US legal team, Richard Visek, told the UN tribunal that he should invoke, for the first time, a legal principle known as “unclean hands”, according to which a nation cannot not sue for his own crime. actions related to the case.

“Iran’s case should be thrown out in its entirety on the basis of the unclean hands principle,” Visek told judges sitting in the court’s main hall of justice.

“The essence of this threshold defense is that Iran’s own egregious conduct, its sponsorship of terrorist acts directed against the United States and American nationals, is at the very core of its claims,” ​​Visek said.

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The Hague-based court has never used the “unclean hands” defense as grounds for dismissing a case, but it has been cited successfully in international arbitration cases, Visek said.

“The United States contends that if there has ever been a case of application of the unclean hands principle – a case that we recognize should only be considered in narrow circumstances – this is it,” said Visek.

On Monday, Iran said the confiscation of US assets was an attempt to destabilize the government in Tehran and a violation of international law.

Iran sued the World Court in 2016 after the US Supreme Court ruled that money held by Iran’s central bank could be used to compensate the 241 victims of a 1983 bombing. – which would be linked to Tehran – from an American military base in Lebanon. .

The world court ruled it had jurisdiction to hear the case in 2019, rejecting a US argument that its national security interests outweighed the 1955 Treaty of Friendship, which promised friendship and cooperation between the two countries.

“The freedom of navigation and trade guaranteed by the treaty has been seriously violated,” Tavakol Habibzadeh, Iran’s head of international legal affairs, told the 14-judge panel on Monday.

At stake in the case heard this week is $1.75 billion in bonds, plus accrued interest, owned by the Iranian state but held in a Citibank account in New York.

Visek also told the judges that Iran’s claims should be dismissed because the frozen assets are state assets not covered by the treaty.

In 1983, a truck bomb exploded in a US Marine barracks in Beirut, killing 241 American soldiers. A few minutes later, a second explosion nearby killed 58 French soldiers. Iran has denied involvement, but a U.S. District Court judge found Tehran responsible in 2003. According to the decision, Iran’s ambassador to Syria at the time called “a member of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and ordered him to incite the attack on the Marine barracks”.

The United States ended the 1955 Treaty of Friendship in 2018 in response to an International Court of Justice order in a separate case seeking to lift sanctions against Iran. Then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said withdrawal from the treaty was long overdue and followed Iran’s “baseless” lawsuit in court alleging US sanctions were a breach of the pact.

The sanctions case and the asset forfeiture case continue because they were filed before Washington abandoned the treaty.

The two countries have not maintained diplomatic relations since the takeover of the American embassy in 1979 by student activists in Tehran.

Judges will likely take months to issue a decision in this case. Court judgments are final and legally binding.

Wednesday’s hearing in The Hague came on the day US President Joe Biden and his Iranian counterpart Ebrahim Raisi will deliver speeches on the second day of the first all-in-person meeting of the UN General Assembly since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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