UN Court Orders US to drop Iran Sanctions

  • UN Court Orders US to Drop Iran Sanctions (c) StudioSmart/ShutterstockUN Court Orders US to Drop Iran Sanctions (c) StudioSmart/Shutterstock

The International Court of Justice (ICJ), the United Nations' top court, based in The Hague, has ordered the US government to lift its sanctions on humanitarian goods to Iran immediately.

Under the unanimous ruling, Washington "shall remove, by means of its choosing, any impediments to the free exportation to Iran of medicines and medical devices, food and agricultural commodities."                

The court said also that US sanctions on spare parts for aircraft must be lifted because of the "potential to endanger civil aviation safety in Iran and the lives of its users".

Outside the US, the ruling is widely considered to be a blow to the Trump administration, which withdrew from the 2015 international nuclear accord JPCOA in May of this year and re-imposed sanctions that had been lifted earlier.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo rejected the decision, saying the UN court has no jurisdiction and adding that the claims are “baseless”. Lawyers for the Trump administration have argued that the sanctions are justified by national security concerns.

Pompeo said the US would also terminate the Treaty of Amity, a 1955 agreement of friendship between Iran and the US. The terms of this treaty, signed between the two countries when Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi was in power, were the basis for the case at the ICJ brought by Iran in July.

The treaty has continued to remain in force despite Tehran and Washington having severed diplomatic ties following the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Iran argues that the ICJ’s Oct. 3 verdict lends weight to its claim that the sanctions amount to collective “illegal and cruel” punishment on the Iranian people. Washington, however, insists that it has already exempted humanitarian goods from the sanctions.

The EU has been actively working, without tangible results, to circumvent the US sanctions and keep the nuclear deal afloat. The US action has led to many European companies, foremostly French energy group Total and German chemical giant BASF’s energy subsdiary Wintershall, pulling out of Iran.

Decisions made by the ICJ are binding and cannot be appealed, but the court has no means of enforcing them.

The Iran ruling is preliminary, and reports suggest that hearing the full case could take years.


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