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Iran-U.S. ICJ Cases
Thread to outline - and discuss - the legal disputes between Iran and the USA currently pending at the ICJ. 

Recent reports suggested that Iran was preparing to bring a case against the USA at the ICJ re: financial loss suffered as a result of US sanctions ( However, this is bad reporting and likely refers to the currently ongoing ICJ case concerning US sanctions. 

Cases are generally broken down into two parts: 1) on jurisdiction and 2) on the merits of the case. Typically, once a party seeks to institute proceedings against another party (in this case Iran against the U.S.), the ICJ will issue a judgment on whether it has jurisdiction to hear the case (i.e. proceed to the merits). However, the accused state will issue preliminary objections to the ICJ's jurisdiction to hear the claims made. The ICJ then suspends the second stage until it can receive sufficient evidence (in the form of written and oral submissions from both parties) to enable it to determine whether (and to what extent) it has jurisdiction to proceed to stage 2. Reaching a decision on the first stage is the easy part and usually takes 1-4 years, it's stage 2 that can take the best part of a decade. 

There are two Iran-USA cases currently pending at the ICJ:

1) On June 2016 Iran instituted proceedings to bring a case at the ICJ against the U.S. ("Certain Iranian Assets"). This concerned seized assets of an Iranian bank (Bank Markazi) in the US. Iran based their claims on the Treaty of Amity 1955. 

On 13th February 2019, the ICJ published its judgment on whether it has jurisdiction to hear the case vis-a-vis the US' 4 preliminary objections (to the ICJ's jurisdiction to hear the case on the merits). The ICJ accepted 1 preliminary objection and ruled that it did not have jurisdiction to hear the case surrounding sovereign immunities (this was the biggest win for the US). The ICJ stated that 2 preliminary objections related to the merits of the case (and not jurisdiction, e.g. factual matters to be determined by the court at a later stage) and thus were rejected. And the final preliminary objection was also rejected. 

Thus, this was a win for Iran in the sense that the ICJ held it had jurisdiction to hear the case, but also a win for the US in that the ICJ accepted the US' argument that a big part of Iran's claims could not be ruled upon by the ICJ. 

These things take time so now the two sides will be presenting arguments to the court and the ICJ will issue a final decision on the merits of the case, but this is likely to take at least a few more years (and possibly many more).

You can read about this case here:

2) The other current ICJ case between Iran and the US - brought by Iran on July 2018 - was also based on the Treaty of Amity 1955 ("Alleged violations of the 1955 Treaty of Amity"). This case concerned the US (re-)imposition of unilateral economic sanctions against Iran by President Trump, which Iran submitted violated the Treaty of Amity. Iran requested provisional measures in the form of ordering the USA to lift some of the sanctions. 

On 3rd October 2018, the ICJ issued a preliminary order that the US to remove some sanctions that impede humanitarian trade with Iran. Thus, the ICJ granted Iran's request for provisional measures (prior to the hearing of the actual case). However, this is of limited effect as the US rejected the ruling and argued that its sanctions do not target humanitarian trade because it grants licences for such trade. But of course we know that the US blacklisting the main financial channels for such trade indirectly impedes humanitarian trade with/for Iran (and this is something the ICJ themselves stated in their order). 

Notably, after the ICJ ordered provisional measures against the US, the US announced that it was terminating the Treaty of Amity (so that it could no longer be used by Iran to bring cases against the USA at the ICJ). If I remember, this takes one year to take effect - this is another reason why the reports of a 'new case' of just a few days ago are likely to be incorrect (the Treaty of Amity is no longer in force). 

This case, however, is still at a very early stage. Next, the US will argue that the ICJ does not have jurisdiction to hear the case (by making 'preliminary objections') and Iran will seek to rebut these objections. The ICJ will then issue an order determining whether (and to what extent) it has jurisdiction to hear the merits of the case. In general, the ICJ gives itself a wide jurisdiction to hear cases thus it is likely that Iran will have (some) success at least in the jurisdictional part of the case. We probably won't receive an order by the ICJ on the jurisdiction stage until at least early 2021 (and then many more years for a decision on the substance/merits of the case if it goes that far).

You can read about this case here:

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