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ICJ Orders U.S. to Compensate Iran for Illegally Freezing Assets

Hyemin Han
Thursday, March 30, 2023, 5:37 PM

The court found that the U.S. acted in violation of the Treaty of Amity and ordered it to compensate Iran for harms experienced.

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On March 30, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) delivered a partial win for Iran in a case alleging the illegal U.S. seizure of Iranian assets. The court found that the U.S. had seized certain Iranian assets in violation of a bilateral agreement signed by the two countries and ordered the U.S. to pay Iran compensation. However, the ICJ found that it did not have jurisdiction to adjudicate on the issue of Bank Markazi—Iran’s central bank and the most costly point of contention between the two parties, amounting to over $1.7 billion in assets.

Iran brought the case in 2016, alleging that U.S. courts had asserted jurisdiction over Iranian entities in violation of customary international law and the Treaty of Amity—a 1957 friendship agreement governing economic and consular relations between the two states. The U.S., for its part, had seized such assets through a mixture of executive orders, legislative measures, and court rulings and used it to compensate victims of terrorism, which it argued Iran facilitated. 

The ICJ found that the United States was in violation of the Treaty of Amity on four counts and ordered the U.S. to compensate Iran for harms experienced due to the violations. Exactly how much that compensation amounts to will be determined by the court in future proceedings. 

You can read the ICJ’s judgment in Certain Iranian Assets (Islamic Republic of Iran v. United States) here or below:

Hyemin Han is an associate editor of Lawfare and is based in Washington, D.C. Previously, she worked in eviction defense and has interned on Capitol Hill and with the U.S. Mission to the United Nations. She holds a BA in government from Dartmouth College, where she was editor-in-chief of The Dartmouth independent daily.

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