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US urges UN high court to throw out Iranian claim on frozen assets

Opening of the public hearings at the ICJ in the case Timor-Leste v Australia. These hearings took place from 20-22 January 2014, in Great Hall of Justice at the Peace Palace in The Hague. (United Nations/Released)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

The United States has asked the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to throw out a claim by Iran to recover $1.75 billion in bank assets seized by U.S. courts.

The United States was responding on October 8 to an Iranian lawsuit before the Hague tribunal in which Iran is seeking to recover funds impounded during the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2016 that the funds must be turned over to American families of victims of alleged Iranian terrorist attacks, including the 1983 bombing of a U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, in which 241 soldiers were killed, and the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia.

“The actions at the root of this case center on Iran’s support for international terrorism,” which should disqualify it from presenting a case before the court, Richard Visek, legal adviser to the U.S. Department of State, told the ICJ.

“Iran comes to the court with unclean hands. Indeed, it is a remarkable show of bad faith,” he said. “Iran’s bad acts include support for terrorist bombings, assassinations, kidnappings, and airline hijackings.”

The current Iranian case before the UN high court is separate from Iran’s lawsuit against U.S. economic sanctions, which the court decided in Iran’s favor last week.

Like the sanctions case, Iran is basing its claim to recover impounded funds on a 1955 Amity Treaty with the United States, which was signed 24 years before its Islamic Revolution.

Washington announced last week that it would withdraw from the treaty, but it could take up to a year for that withdrawal to take effect.