US rejects UN court jurisdiction in Iran sanctions case

US rejects UN court jurisdiction in Iran sanctions case
The United States has the right to protect its national security, its state department lawyer said, after Iran accused it of "economic strangulation".
2 min read
28 August, 2018

The United States told UN judges on Tuesday they had no jurisdiction to rule on Tehran's demand for them to order the suspension of debilitating nuclear-related sanctions against Iran.

Iran has argued that US President Donald Trump breached a 1955 treaty with his decision to reimpose the sanctions after withdrawing from a multilateral nuclear accord.

But US State Department lawyer Jennifer Newstead told the court in The Hague that it "lacks prima facie jurisdiction to hear Iran's claims".

But Newstead argued that the United States had the right to protect its national security and other interests.

The treaty "cannot therefore provide a basis for this court's jurisdiction" in the case, she said.

The United States and several other world powers lifted sanctions on Iran under a 2015 accord after years of diplomacy. In return, Tehran made commitments not to seek to build nuclear weapons.

Trump said the 2015 accord did not do enough to curb the threat from Iran. He pulled out of the accord in May and began reimposing sanctions this month.

In the first day of hearings at the ICJ on Monday, Iran's lawyers said the sanctions were threatening the welfare of its citizens and disrupting tens of billions of dollars' worth of business deals.

The US lawyers held Iran to blame for its economic woes.

They have "deep roots in the Iranian government's mismanagement of its own economy and repression of its own population," Newstead said.

The Islamic Republic's lead representative in the case, Mohsen Mohebi, branded the sanctions "naked economic aggression".

"The United States is publicly propagating a policy intended to damage as severely as possible Iran's economy and Iranian nationals and companies," Mohebi said.

"Iran will put up the strongest resistance to the US economic strangulation, by all peaceful means."

The US measures have added to Iran's economic woes, fuelling strikes and protests across the political spectrum.

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

The court adjourned after Tuesday's hearing until Wednesday when Iran will have the opportunity to respond to the US arguments.

The ICJ, set up in 1946 to rule in disputes between countries, is expected to take several weeks to decide whether to grant Tehran's request for a provisional ruling. A final decision could take years.