International Court of Justice expected to rule on legality of US sanctions against Iran

International Court of Justice expected to rule on legality of US sanctions against Iran

Today, the International Court of Justice will rule on an Iranian claim disputing the US’ decision on May 8 to

Hearings alleged violations of the 1955 Treaty of Amity, Iran vs US in The Hague

Photo: Reuters/Piroschka van de Wouw

Today, the International Court of Justice will rule on an Iranian claim disputing the US’ decision on May 8 to re-impose sanctions on certain commodities and stop imports from Iran of carpets and foodstuffs.

Tehran argues that the sanctions contravened international law because they breached a little-known pre-Islamic Revolution era agreement—the Treaty of Amity and Economic Relations, signed in 1955 between the Shah of Iran and the Eisenhower administration. Washington argues that the ICJ has no jurisdiction, the treaty is invalid and the sanctions do not violate international law.

If the Court finds it has jurisdiction, its decisions are binding and cannot be appealed; however, there is no way to enforce any judgment. Therefore, Iran will likely derive little practical benefit from the court action, as the US has a history of ignoring rulings that are not in its favour.

Regardless, the Court’s decision may be notable for what it says about “economic warfare”—not currently recognised as “use of force” under the UN Charter. If it rules that economic sanctions could be considered “use of force”, the implications of this may increase global tensions, for example, in relation to US and EU sanctions on Russia.

Wake up smarter with an assessment of the stories that will make headlines in the next 24 hours. Download The Daily Brief.