International Court of Justice
International Court of JusticeiStock

The International Court of Justice today (Thursday) rejected the Iranian government's bid to free $2 billion in Iranian bank assets which have been frozen by the US.

US authorities have frozen the assets to be used as compensation for the victims of terrorist attacks which have been linked to Iran, including the 1983 Beirut Barracks Bombing in which 241 American military personnel were killed.

In a 10-5 ruling, the court justices determined that the International Criminal Court of Justice does not have jurisdiction over the case, and therefore cannot accept the Iranian government's appeal.

In its 67-page decision, the court did find that some of the American government's moves to seize Iranian assets violate a 1955 treaty between the US and Iran, and the countries should negotiate between themselves for compensation for those seizures. Should they not reach an agreement on those issues, they could return to the Hague for another ruling.

However, the court found that the terms of the same treaty prevents the court from having jurisdiction over the majority of the funds Iran sought to unfreeze, $1.75 billion plus interest in bonds held in a Citibank account in New York,, as the treaty does not extend to central banks and state holdings.

The US welcomed the court's ruling. State Department acting legal adviser Rich Visek called the ruling "a major victory for the United States and victims of Iran’s state-sponsored terrorism."

“The court’s decision today rejected the vast majority of Iran’s case, including notably Iran’s claims on behalf of Bank Markazi," Visek said.

In 2016, Iran sued the US over the frozen funds after the US Supreme Court ruled that the money could be seized as compensation for the victims of the 1983 barracks bombing.

The court rejected the argument of the US legal team that the principle of “unclean hands” should be invoked, under which a nation would not be allowed to bring a case to the court due to its own criminal acts in relation to the case in question.

Iran has previously had some measure of success against the US at the International Criminal Court, such as an order by the court in 2018 that US lift some of the sanctions which were imposed on Iran after the Trump Administration withdrew from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.