THE HAGUE, Netherlands (TBEN) — Iran told the United Nations’ highest court on Monday that Washington’s seizure of about $2 billion in assets from Iranian state bank accounts to compensate bomb victims was an attempt to destabilize the Iranian government. and a violation of international law.
In 2016, Tehran filed suit with the International Court of Justice after the US Supreme Court ruled that money held in Iran’s central bank could be used to compensate the 241 victims of a 1983 bombing of a US military base in Lebanon. , which are believed to be related to Iran.
Hearings in the case started Monday in the Hague court, starting with Iran’s arguments. The proceedings continue on Wednesday with opening statements from Washington.
At stake is $1.75 billion in bonds, plus accrued interest, belonging to the Iranian state but in a Citibank account in New York.
In 1983, a suicide bomber in a truck loaded with military-grade explosives attacked the US Marines barracks in Beirut, killing 241 US troops and 58 French soldiers.
While Iran has long denied involvement, a U.S. District Court judge found Tehran responsible in 2003. That statement said Iran’s then ambassador to Syria called it “a member of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards” and ordered him to bomb the Marine barracks.
The international court ruled it had jurisdiction to hear the case in 2019 and rejected an argument by the US that its national security interests exceeded the 1955 Treaty of Friendship, which promised friendship and cooperation between the two countries.
“The freedom of navigation and trade guaranteed by the treaty has been seriously violated,” Tavakol Habibzadeh, Iran’s head of international legal affairs, told the 14-judge panel on Monday.
A 2012 US law ordered the bank to transfer its assets to the families of the victims of the Beirut bombing. A US court concluded that the attack, which hit barracks for soldiers conducting peacekeeping operations during Lebanon’s civil war, was carried out by Iranian agents supported by the militant group Hezbollah.
Iran claims it was not involved in the attack. Habibzadeh said on Monday that the US has established a “trial process” against Iran and Iranian companies in an attempt to undermine the regime. The seizure was just one maneuver “with the aim of destabilizing Iran and the Iranian government,” Habibzadeh said.
The two countries have not had diplomatic relations since the 1979 takeover of the US embassy by militant students in Tehran.
The pair have a second case pending before the ICJ over the same obscure treaty. Tehran filed an unrelated complaint in court in 2018 after former President Donald Trump re-imposed sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program. In response, the US withdrew completely from the treaty.
The hearings come as Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi heads to New York on Monday, where he will address the UN General Assembly later this week.
Talks between Iran and world powers about reviving a 2015 agreement to curb Iran’s nuclear activities continue to stall. Tehran and Washington have exchanged written responses in recent months to a roadmap that would mean lifting sanctions against Iran in exchange for curtailing its rapidly advancing nuclear program.