World court to rule on Iran's billions frozen in US

The explosion at the Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983. 241 US Marines were killed along with58 French peacekeepers and 6 civilians

February 13 (UPI) - The International Court of Justice ruled Wednesday it has jurisdiction to consider a request by the Iranian government to thaw $2 billion worth of assets frozen by the United States for past crimes attributed to Tehran.

The case filed in June 2016 centres on assets from the Iranian national bank, Bank Markazi, seized by US courts to compensate families of victims of a 1983 bombing of a US Marine Corps base, which Washington blames on Iran.

The US Supreme Court ruled in April 2016 that the $2 billion in frozen Iranian assets should be paid to about 1,000 survivors and relatives of those killed in attacks blamed on the Islamic Republic.

At hearings previous year, the United States raised five objections to the court's jurisdiction and the admissibility of the case, which Iran filed in 2016.

The court also "finds that it has jurisdiction" in the case, Yusuf said at the end of an hour-long reading of the decision.

The United States had argued that Iran based its claims on an essentially outdated 1955 Amity Treaty, which Washington has said it will renounce.

In a ruling issued on Wednesday, the 15-member court in The Hague said Tehran can proceed with a bid to recover the assets, which Washington says must go to victims of attacks blamed on Iran. It includes a clause that sends unresolved disputes about interpretation of the treaty to the world court.

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Washington announced last week it would withdraw from the treaty, but it could take up to a year for that withdrawal to take effect. Its rulings are binding and can not be appealed, but it has no means of enforcing them.

Relations have been strained since US President Donald Trump's decision to pull out of an global nuclear deal with Iran and reimpose sanctions.

The timing of the United States court ruling had been particularly sensitive as it was just a year after the landmark nuclear deal with world powers which led to the unblocking of other frozen funds.

A United States court ruled that the attack was carried out by an Iranian agent supported by the Hezbollah militant group.

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.

In 2018, Iran won a legal victory when the ICJ ruled the USA must lift sanctions against Tehran targeting humanitarian goods such as food and medicine.

In Poland this week, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will use a two-day conference of foreign ministers to try to rally the world behind increasing pressure on Iran and supporting Israel, although turnout could be thin.

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