US rejects Iran’s legal claim to recover US$1.75 billion in frozen assets

An Iranian woman shops at a drugstore at the Nikan hospital in Tehran. (AFP pic)

THE HAGUE: The United States on Monday asked judges at the International Court of Justice to throw out a claim by Iran to recover US$1.75 billion (RM7.28 billion) in national bank assets seized by US courts.

The US Supreme Court ruled in 2016 that the assets must be turned over to American families of victims of the 1983 bombing of a US Marine Corps barracks in Beirut, among others.

The hearings at the tribunal were separate from Iran’s claim relating to current US sanctions against Tehran.

Iran’s claim in both cases is based on a 1955 Amity Treaty, which was signed 24 years before Iran’s Islamic Revolution, which turned the two countries into arch enemies.

“The actions at the root of this case centre on Iran’s support for international terrorism,” Richard Visek, legal adviser to the US Department of State, said on Monday, calling on the court to reject Iran’s suit.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused Tehran of misusing the World Court for political and propaganda purposes.

“We owe it to our fallen heroes, their families, and the victims of Iran’s terrorist activities to vigorously defend against the Iranian regime’s meritless claims this week in The Hague, where we will show that Iran’s case should be dismissed,” Pompeo said in a statement.

Washington announced last week it would withdraw from the Amity Treaty after the tribunal ordered the United States to ensure that sanctions against Iran do not affect humanitarian aid or civil aviation safety.

It will take a year for a withdrawal from the Amity Treaty to take effect, and Iran’s case against the asset seizure, which was filed in 2016, will continue regardless. The hearings in The Hague will run until Friday and focus on US objections to the UN’s highest court’s jurisdiction. No date for a ruling has been set.