On Thursday, judges at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) issued a ruling in a case brought by Iran against the United States in 2016. The court found that the US had illegally allowed its courts to freeze assets of Iranian companies and ordered Washington to pay compensation, which will be determined at a later time.
While this is considered a partial victory for Iran, the court also said that it did not have jurisdiction over $1.75 billion in frozen assets from Iran’s central bank, which is the largest amount claimed by Iran. Iran hailed the decision as “highlighting the legitimacy” of its positions and “expressing the wrongful behavior of the United States.”
The case before the ICJ was based on allegations that the US had breached a 1955 friendship treaty by allowing its courts to freeze assets of Iranian companies. The treaty was signed long before Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution, and the subsequent severing of US-Iranian relations. The United States withdrew from the treaty in 2018, but the ICJ ruled that it was still in place at the time of the freezing of the assets of Iranian commercial companies and entities.
The court concluded that the US had violated its obligations under the treaty of amity and that Iran was entitled to compensation. The parties have 24 months to agree on a figure, and if they cannot, the court will begin new proceedings to determine the amount to be paid. However, the ICJ also explained that it had no jurisdiction over the $1.75 billion in assets from Iran’s central bank held by the US because the bank was not a commercial enterprise and therefore not protected by the treaty.
The ruling comes amid heightened tensions between the US and Iran, with tit-for-tat strikes between Iran-backed forces and US personnel in Syria last week. Relations have also been strained after attempts to revive a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and major world powers stalled, and as Iranian drones are being used by Russia against Ukraine. The rulings of the ICJ, the United Nations’ top court, are binding, but it has no means of enforcing them, and both the US and Iran have disregarded its decisions in the past.