International Court of Justice Sides With the Mullahs

And what Trump must do.

During his address to the United Nations General Assembly last week, President Trump rejected the notion of global governance institutions purporting to override national sovereignty. President Trump called out the International Criminal Court, which “has no legitimacy or authority,” he said. The president vowed to “never surrender America’s sovereignty” to such an “unelected, unaccountable” globalist body. The UN’s top court, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, has just rendered a decision against the United States and in favor of Iran that demonstrates why President Trump is so correct. The ICJ judges ruled that some sanctions imposed by the Trump administration on the Iranian regime were inconsistent with the “Treaty of Amity, Economic Relations, and Consular Rights” between Iran and the United States, which was signed in Tehran in 1955 and entered into force in 1957. The ICJ disgracefully relied on this treaty to both assert jurisdiction over Iran’s complaint, and to decide at least provisionally in Iran’s favor on the merits. It ordered the immediate removal of U.S. sanctions on certain products for import into Iran, pending the court’s final decision in the case. President Trump must, as he is expected to do, disregard this disgraceful ruling, and any follow-on rulings. The ICJ decision is an affront to the United States’ sovereign right to decide what nations it chooses to do business with and which countries it decides not to do business with, for whatever reasons it chooses including national security.

Following the ICJ ruling, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the United States would cancel the treaty that anachronistically still includes “Amity” and “Consular Rights” in its title. That’s good, but unnecessary. The treaty is already dead as a result of the Iranian Islamist regime’s own gross violations of the treaty itself and of conventional international law principles, capped by the unlawful seizure of the U.S. embassy in Tehran and the detention of hostages under inhumane conditions by the regime’s supporters in 1979, which the regime endorsed.

The International Court of Justice’s entire rationale for its decision rests on this dead treaty. “The Court considers that the United States, in accordance with its obligations under the 1955 Treaty,” the ICJ declared unanimously, “must remove, by means of its choosing, any impediments arising from the measures announced on 8 May 2018 to the free exportation to the territory of Iran of goods required for humanitarian needs, such as (i) medicines and medical devices, and (ii) foodstuffs and agricultural commodities, as well as goods and services required for the safety of civil aviation, such as (iii) spare parts, equipment and associated services (including warranty, maintenance, repair services and safety-related inspections) necessary for civil aircraft. To this end, the United States must ensure that licences and necessary authorizations are granted and that payments and other transfers of funds are not subject to any restriction in so far as they relate to the goods and services referred to above.”

One of the ICJ judges, Cançado Trindade, wrote separately that “[T]he imperative of the realization of justice prevails over manifestations of a State’s ‘will,’” including any concerns a state may have about national security. He opined on the “evolutionary interpretation” of treaties that “contributed to the progressive development of international law.” In other words, an unaccountable globalist judge can simply make up “international law” as he or she wishes to suit the judge’s preferred progressive policy outcome. 

The ICJ claimed that “its orders on provisional measures have binding effect and create international legal obligations for any party to whom the provisional measures are addressed” – i.e., the United States. President Trump previewed his likely reaction to such usurpation of power by unaccountable globalist judges when he told the UN General Assembly last week that “America is governed by Americans.”

The ICJ’s reliance on the six decades-old Treaty of Amity, Economic Relations, and Consular Rights to reach its decision is a travesty. The judges claimed that they were implementing the provision in the treaty that authorizes them to interpret and apply the treaty in the event of a dispute between the parties. Judge Trindade laughably referred to Article I of the treaty to assist in his “interpretation” of its obligations: “There shall be firm and enduring peace and sincere friendship between the United States of America and Iran.” What friendship? Did he and his colleagues on the ICJ bench bother to read Article II (Paragraph 4) of the same treaty, for example, as part of their “interpretation,” which states: “Nationals of either High Contracting Party shall receive the most constant protection and security within the territories of the other High Contracting Party.” Iran violated that provision.

Did Judge Trindade and his fellow ICJ jurists bother to read Article XIII, which contains specific protections for the consular representatives of each High Contracting Party while in the territory of the other High Contracting Party as well as for the physical premises of consular offices? Article XIII prohibits the examination or seizure of the papers deposited in such offices by local authorities. Iran violated that provision too.

Most importantly, have these international judges been in hibernation for the last 39 years? The treaty they relied on for their pro-Iran decision is a dead letter because the Iranian regime has blatantly violated its very core ever since the Islamists came to power in 1979. The Iranian regime was not so concerned about “amity” and “consular rights” when its supreme leader Ayatollah Khomeini proclaimed back in 1979 the Iranian state’s endorsement of both the seizure of the U.S. embassy in Tehran and the detention of hostages by the regime’s supporters without any of the protections outlined in the treaty. The regime refused to take part in proceedings that the United States had brought before the ICJ because of this illegal seizure and detention. The regime rejected the ICJ’s judgment against it, claiming that the ICJ had no jurisdiction over the matter. It refused to take responsibility for directly compensating the hostages for physical and emotional harm inflicted on them during their captivity.

In short, there is nothing left to interpret or apply in a treaty hollowed out of its essential purpose by the Iranian regime’s consistent pattern of significant violations that it has never acknowledged. Even if there were something left for the ICJ to interpret or apply, which there is not, Article XX (Paragraph 1) of the treaty entitles either party to apply measures to protect its essential security interests. The ICJ attempted to dismiss U.S. national security concerns when it comes to the importation and purchase of goods said to be required for humanitarian needs and of spare parts, equipment and associated services (including warranty, maintenance, repair services and safety-related inspections) said to be necessary for civil aircraft.

Contrary to what they might think, however, international judges sitting in The Hague do not get to define for a sovereign nation what is or is not a legitimate security concern of that nation. Exploiting dual-use capabilities, the Iranian regime has a habit of combining military and civilian aviation components. Earlier this year it was reported, for example, that an Iranian civilian airline was being used to transport weapons into Lebanon for use by the terrorist group Hezbollah and Iranian weapons factories. The corrupt Iranian regime has also created artificial shortages of medical supplies in the past through what its own former Iranian minister of health described as government mismanagement of medicinal imports.  Even so, the importation of foodstuffs and medical supplies is subject to exemption under the measures imposed by the Trump administration. The ICJ summarily rejected assurances by the U.S. State Department to work to ameliorate legitimate humanitarian concerns, an action by the ICJ that itself demonstrates the anti-U.S. animus of the ICJ judges.

While the International Court of Justice judges arrogantly issued their ruling with their heads in the sand, President Trump has operated in the real world when it comes to the malignant behavior of the Iranian regime. In his remarks at the United Nations Security Council briefing on counter-proliferation last week, President Trump said that the “Iranian regime exports violence, terror, and turmoil. It illicitly procures sensitive items to advance its ballistic missile program.” He said that new sanctions will be added to those already in place, warning of “severe consequences” for any “individual or entity who fails to comply with these sanctions.”

The last thing that will deter President Trump from following through with his sanctions program against the Iranian regime is a bogus ruling by an unaccountable globalist governance body based on a treaty that is no longer valid because of the Iranian regime’s blatant violations of its core provisions.