THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — The United States on Wednesday urged the International Court of Justice to throw out a case brought by Iran seeking to claw back around $2 billion worth of frozen Iranian assets that the U.S. Supreme Court awarded to victims of a 1983 bombing in Lebanon and other attacks linked to Tehran.
The leader of the U.S. legal team, Richard Visek, told the U.N. court that it should invoke, for the first time, a legal principle known as “unclean hands,” under which a nation can't bring a case because of its own criminal actions linked to the case.
“Iran’s case should be dismissed in its entirety based on the principle of unclean hands,” Visek told the judges sitting in the court's Great Hall of Justice.
“The essence of this threshold defense is that Iran’s own egregious conduct, its sponsorship of terrorist acts directed against the United States and U.S. nationals, lies at the very core of its claims,” Visek said.
The Hague-based court has never used the “unclean hands” defense as a reason to toss out a case, but it has been successfully cited in international arbitration cases, Visek said.
“The United States submits that if there was ever a case for application of the principle of unclean hands — one that we recognize should be considered only in narrow circumstances — it is this case,” Visek said.
On Monday, Iran said the U.S. asset confiscation was an attempt to destabilize the Tehran government and a violation of international law.
Iran took its claim to the world court in 2016 after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that money held in Iran’s central bank could be used to compensate the 241 victims of a 1983 bombing — believed to be linked to Tehran — of a U.S. military base in Lebanon.
The world court ruled it had jurisdiction to hear the case in...