International Court of Justice: ruling on Iranian oil platforms case

14 November 2003

In last week’s judgement stemming from the late-1980s attacks by the United States on Iranian oil platforms, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) rejected Iran’s claim for reparations under a treaty between the two countries, but found the US actions could not be justified on security grounds.

In last week’s judgement stemming from the late-1980s attacks by the United States on Iranian oil platforms, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) rejected Iran’s claim for reparations under a treaty between the two countries, but found the US actions could not be justified on security grounds.

The judgement by the principal judicial body of the United Nations, which was delivered in The Hague on 6 November, is final, without appeal and binding on its parties.

By a vote of 14 to 2, the Court said that it could not uphold the submission by Iran that the US actions against Iranian oil platforms on 19 October 1987 and 18 April 1988 “constitute a breach of the obligations” by the US under the 1955 bilateral Treaty of Amity Economic Relations and Consular Rights and that Iran’s claim for reparation “also cannot be upheld.”

In seeking damages, Iran contended that by attacking and destroying three offshore oil production complexes, the US had violated freedom of commerce as guaranteed by the 1955 treaty. In its reasoning, however, the Court said the platforms destroyed in the first attack were under repair and thus not engaged in bilateral oil trade. As for the second attack, it occurred when all trade in crude between the US and Iran was suspended as a result of an oil embargo imposed by US authorities.

At the same time, the Court ruled that the US actions against the oil platforms “cannot be justified as measures necessary to protect the essential security interest” of the United States under the same treaty, “as interpreted in the light of international law on the use of force.”

The judges also ruled 15-1 against the US counter-claim that Iran had breached the same treaty when it attacked vessels in the Persian Gulf and engaged in certain military actions. The ICJ found that none of the ships alleged by the US to have been damaged by Iran were engaged in commerce between the two States.

Editor’s Note

The story replaces the news article published on 7 November, which incorrectly reported that the Court found the US in breach of the 1955 treaty between the two countries. We regret the error.

 

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