120 nations accuse US top court of violating law over Iran

AP News
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Posted: May 05, 2016 7:16 PM

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The 120-nation Nonaligned Movement headed by Iran accused the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday of violating international law by ruling that nearly $2 billion in frozen Iranian assets can be paid to victims of attacks linked to the country.

A communique issued by the NAM's Coordinating Bureau follows an Iranian appeal to the United Nations last week to intervene with the U.S. government to prevent the loss of their funds. Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif called the ruling an "outrageous robbery, disguised under a court order."

The NAM, comprising mainly developing countries, called the U.S. waiver of "the sovereign immunity of states and their institutions" a violation of U.S. international and treaty obligations.

It called on the U.S. government "to respect the principle of state immunity" and warned that failing to do so will have "adverse implications, including uncertainty and chaos in international relations." It also warned that a failure would also undermine the international rule of law "and would constitute an international wrongful act, which entails international responsibility."

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on April 23 that the families of victims of a 1983 bombing in Lebanon and other attacks linked to Iran can collect nearly $2 billion in frozen funds from Iran as compensation.

The court's ruling directly affects more than 1,300 relatives of victims, some who have been seeking compensation for more than 30 years. They include families of the 241 U.S. service members who died in the bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut.

Iran denies any links to the attacks.

Iran's U.N. Ambassador Gholamali Khoshroo asked that Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon circulate the NAM statement to the U.N. General Assembly and Security Council.

The NAM called for "dialogue and accommodation over coercion and confrontation" to peacefully settle disputes.

In last week's letter, Iran's Zarif appealed to secretary-general Ban to use his good offices "to induce the U.S. government to adhere to its international obligations, put an end to the violation of the fundamental principle of state immunity."

State Department spokesman Mark Toner said in response that "U.S. laws and the application of those laws by the courts of the United States comport with international law."

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Thursday that the letter is being studied.

Iran has also complained to the United States that it is locked out of the international financial system.

It accused the U.S. of failing to fulfill its obligations under last year's nuclear deal which was supposed to give the Iranians relief from crippling economic sanctions in exchange for curbing their nuclear program.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who met Zarif on April 22, said the United States would not stand in the way of foreign banks or firms doing business with Iranian companies that are no longer subject to U.S. sanctions. He said the administration was willing to further clarify what transactions are now permitted with Iran, and he urged foreign financial institutions to seek answers from U.S. officials if they have questions.