The International Court of Justice will rule on Thursday on Iran’s attempt to unblock nearly $2 billion in assets frozen by the United States over alleged terrorist attacks.
Tehran dragged its adversary to the UN’s top tribunal in 2016 after the US Supreme Court ruled on paying the assets to survivors and relatives of attacks blamed on the Islamic Republic.
The judgment by the Hague-based ICJ comes amid tensions over recent US strikes on Iran-linked groups in Syria, as well as Tehran’s nuclear program and its support for Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Judges at the court, which was established after World War II to rule on disputes between UN member states, will begin reading out their decision at 3 pm (1300 GMT).
ICJ rulings are binding and non-appealable but have no enforcement powers. However, countries can complain to the UN Security Council if another state fails to comply with a judgment.
Iran has alleged that the assets were frozen by the United States illegally, and it says that it needs them at a time of economic difficulties due to nuclear sanctions against Tehran.
The US Supreme Court ruled seven years ago that the assets – $1.75 billion belonging to the Central Bank of Iran and some from Iranian businesses – should be used to compensate victims of terrorist attacks.
These included the 1983 bombing of the US Marine barracks in Beirut, which killed 299 people including 241 US soldiers, and the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia which killed 19 people.
– ‘Unclean hands’ –
But Iran denies being responsible for the attacks.
He says the US freeze violates the “Treaty of Amity” signed by Tehran and Washington in 1955 – long before the 1979 Islamic revolution that toppled the pro-US Shah and severed ties with the United States.
Washington has tried unsuccessfully to throw out the law before, with its lawyers alleging that Iran had “unclean hands” – a reference to Tehran’s alleged support for terrorist groups.
The US also formally withdrew from the Amity Treaty in 2018 after the ICJ, in a separate case, ordered Washington to lift nuclear-related sanctions on humanitarian goods for Iran.
The ICJ judgment in the frozen assets case comes against a backdrop of rising tensions between Washington and Tehran.
Tehran has condemned recent US airstrikes on Iranian-linked forces in Syria that killed 19 people, Washington said it carried out after a deadly drone attack on US forces on Thursday.
US President Joe Biden said after ordering the strikes that his country “is not seeking conflict with Iran”.
Meanwhile, talks on a landmark 2015 multinational deal to revive Iran’s nuclear activity have long stalled. Iran denies that it wants to acquire atomic weapons.
The United States, then president Donald Trump, pulled out of the nuclear deal in 2018 and reinstated sanctions.
Washington has also expressed concern about military aid from Iran in relation to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.