An international court on Wednesday ruled Iran can proceed with a bid to unfreeze assets in the United States, rejecting Washington’s claims the case must be halted because of Tehran’s alleged support for international terrorism.
Washington had argued that Iran’s “unclean hands” — a reference to Tehran’s suspected backing of terror groups — should disqualify its lawsuit to recover $2 billion in assets frozen by the US Supreme Court in 2016.
But the International Court of Justice in The Hague threw out the US challenges, and said that it had the right to hold full hearings at a later date as to whether Tehran will get the money back.
Chief judge Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf said the UN’s top court “unanimously rejects the preliminary objections to admissibility raised by the United States of America”.
The court also “finds that it has jurisdiction” in the case, Yusuf said at the end of an hour-long reading of the decision.
Tehran said the United States had illegally seized Iranian financial assets and those of Iranian companies — and with Iran’s clerical regime facing economic difficulties after sanctions and a fall in its currency resolving the case remains crucial.
Judge Yusuf noted that at the last hearing on Iran’s funds in October, the United States had argued “that Iran’s ‘unclean hands’ preclude the court from proceeding with this case”. But he added that “even if it were shown that [Iran’s] conduct was not beyond reproach, this would not be sufficient” on its own to throw out the case.
He also said the fact that the US had now pulled out of the amity treaty with Iran “has no effect on the jurisdiction of the court” and that it now needed to hold detailed hearings.