The White House. Picture: THINKSTOCK
The White House. Picture: THINKSTOCK

The US has accused Tehran of having "unclean hands" as it fights an Iranian court bid to unfreeze $2bn earmarked by Washington for terror victims.

On Monday Washington said Iran’s "support for international terrorism", including bombings and airline hijackings, should disqualify it from being heard at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague.

Iran took Washington to the UN’s top court in 2016 over a US supreme court ruling that the $2bn should go to victims of attacks blamed on the Islamic republic. Iran said the case breached a 1955 "Treaty of Amity" between Washington and Tehran signed before Iran’s Islamic revolution.

Washington tore up that treaty last week after the ICJ in a separate case ordered the US to ease sanctions reimposed on Tehran by US President Donald Trump after he pulled out of Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal.

"Iran comes to the court with unclean hands. Indeed, it is a remarkable show of bad faith," Richard Visek, a legal official from the US state department, told the court.

"The actions at the root of this case centre on Iran’s support for international terrorism … Iran’s bad acts include supports for terrorist bombings, assassinations, kidnappings and airline hijackings," he said.

Visek also accused Iran’s "most senior leaders" of the "encouragement and promotion of terrorism" and "violation of nuclear nonproliferation, ballistic missile and arms trafficking obligations".

Iran’s use of the 1955 treaty to lodge the case was an "abuse of process", he added.

The ICJ was set up after World War 2 to rule on disputes between UN member states. Its rulings are binding but it has no power to enforce them.

In Washington, US secretary of state Mike Pompeo said: "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."

At Monday’s hearing, a 15-judge bench listened to US arguments over the ICJ being able to take up the case under its strict rules governing its procedure.

The terror attacks whose US victims were to be compensated under the April 2016 supreme court ruling included the 1983 bombing of a US Marine barracks in Beirut, in which 241 soldiers were killed, and the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia. The decision affects a total of more than 1,000 Americans.

Iran accused Washington of breaking the 1955 treaty – even though it was signed at the time with the pro-US regime of the Shah – and called for the US "to make full reparations to Iran for the violation of its international legal obligations".

AFP

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