The Middle East

ICJ Case Regarding Illegal Freezing of Iranian Assets Remains Open

By: Tiffany D. Johnson

Impunity Watch News Staff Writer

THE HAUGUE, The Netherlands – In March of 2023, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) rendered a landmark judgment in the case concerning “Certain Iranian Assets” (United States Diplomatic and Consular Staff in Tehran, United States of America v. Iran), requiring the United States to justly compensate the Islamic Republic for economic sanctions that violated the Treaty of Amity. However, both parties have yet to come to an agreement on the amount due.

Members of the Delegation of the Islamic Republic of Iran listen to the International Court of Justice’s judgment in the case concerning Certain Iranian Assets on March 30, 2023, at the Peace Palace in The Hague. | Photo courtesy of Wiebe Kiestra via the International Court of Justice.

The case stems from a dispute between the United States and Iran regarding the freezing of Iranian assets by the U.S. government during the Iranian Revolution in 1979. The Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA) was modified by the US in 1996 to revoke immunity for states identified as “State sponsors of terrorism.” Many plaintiffs filed lawsuits against Iran, which the US designated as a “State sponsor of terrorism” in 1984, alleging that Iran supported acts that caused damages. This was due to the FSIA’s terrorism exception. Enacted in 2002, the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA) allowed for the enforcement of judgments entered in accordance with the FSIA’s 1996 amendment.

Crucially, Section 201 of TRIA states that in these situations, an entity designated as a “terrorist party” may have its assets executed or attached in order to aid in its execution. Executive Order 13599 issued by President Barack Obama in 2012 resulted in the blocking of all Iranian government assets within U.S. jurisdiction. Then, in order to comply with default judgments against Iran, the United States passed the Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act (ITRSHRA), which put Bank Markazi’s assets up for execution.

Iran filed a suit against the United States with the ICJ in 2016, alleging that by allowing private litigants to pursue lawsuits against Iran and attaching confiscated Iranian assets to satisfy judgments obtained against Iran in those actions, the United States had violated both the 1955 Treaty of Amity between the two nations and international law norms on State immunity. Iran argued that these actions constituted a violation of international law, specifically the Treaty of Amity, Economic Relations, and Consular Rights between the two nations. The ICJ was tasked with adjudicating on the legality of the U.S. government’s actions and determining the reparations owed to Iran.

In its March 2023 judgment, the ICJ acknowledged the delicate balance between state sovereignty and international obligations. The Court affirmed that the U.S. government’s freezing of Iranian assets indeed violated the Treaty of Amity. Notably, the ICJ emphasized the principle that states must respect the rights of other nations, irrespective of political tensions or conflicts.

The Court held that the freezing of assets had adversely affected Iran’s economic interests and, by extension, violated its rights under the Treaty. Although the Court ruled that it could not order the United States to unfreeze assets held by the Iranian central bank worth nearly $1.75 billion, it did mandate that the U.S. reimburse Iranian companies for the sanctions it had imposed and the other assets it had seized.

If the U.S. and Iran are unable to agree on the amount of compensation due to Iran within 24 months of the ruling, the matter, at the request of either party, will be settled by the Court. As of right now, there has been no agreement on appropriate compensation between the United States and Iran and the case remains open on the Court’s General List.

For further information, please see:

Just Security – After ICJ’s “Certain Iranian Assets” Judgement, Iran and United States Both Claim Victory – 17 April 2023.

International Court of Justice – Certain Iranian Assets (Islamic Republic of Iran v. United States of America), Judgment – 30 March 2023.

International Court of Justice – Press Release: The Court delivers its Judgment on the merits of the case – 30 March 2023

Treaty of Amity, Economic Relations, and Consular Rights between the United States of America and Iran, 1955, 8 U.S.T. 899.

UN Press – International Court of Justice Docket Reflects Legal Questions Concerning All Humanity in Every Region, President Says, as General Assembly Takes Up Report – 26 Oct 2023

South Africa Initiates Proceedings in ICJ Against Israel for Violations of the 1948 Genocide Convention in Gaza

By: Garrison Funk

Impunity Watch News Staff Writer

THE HAGUE, Netherlands – On December 29, 2023, South Africa initiated proceedings in the International Court of Justice against the state of Israel for its actions in the Gaza Strip, accusing Israel of violating the 1948 Genocide Convention due to its treatment of Palestinians throughout the conflict with Hamas. Israel has confirmed it will appear at the proceedings to fight the allegations.

Judges at the International Court of Justice at The Hague | Photo Courtesy of Al Jazeera, Remko De Waalepa/EFE/EPA

South Africa pointed to the ongoing humanitarian crisis and magnitude of death and destruction in Gaza, stating such action meets the threshold of the 1948 Convention under international law. South Africa has also requested the Court order an injunction on any further Israeli attacks in the region.

Israel’s actions in the Gaza Strip have been a part of a three-month long campaign against Hamas, the perpetrators of the October 7, 2023, terrorist attack in Israel which led to the deaths of approximately 1,200 Israelis. Israel responded by launching a series of airstrikes into Gaza, targeting suspected Hamas strongholds, prior to launching a full-scale ground invasion of the Gaza Strip on October 27, 2023. Since the start of the invasion, the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza has reported the death toll to exceed 22,000.

South Africa claims Israel’s actions violate obligations set under the 1948 Genocide Convention. The Convention defines genocide as “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.”

Israel has pushed diplomatic cables requesting countries to denounce the claims and pointed to its effort to increase humanitarian support in the region to refute the idea of genocide. The United States has already stated its support for Israel, calling South Africa’s submission “meritless, counterproductive, and completely without any basis in fact whatsoever.” However, pro-Palestine countries such as Turkey and Jordan have both expressed their support for South Africa’s challenge.

Israel has boycotted the ICJ and its rulings for decades, and its participation in this instance as a signee to the 1948 Genocide Convention speaks volumes of the importance of this issue to Israel. The case is set to be heard by the ICJ on January 11, 2024.

For further information, please see:

Al Jazeera – Israel promises to fight South Africa genocide accusation at ICJ – 2 Jan. 2024

Axios – Inside Israel’s plan to quash South Africa’s Gaza genocide case – 5 Jan. 2024

CSIS – Hamas’s October 7 Attack: Visualizing the Data – 19 Dec. 2023

The Guardian – Stakes high as South Africa brings claim of genocidal intent against Israel  – 4 Jan. 2024

ICJ – Application Instituting Proceedings – 29 Dec. 2023

UNN – Gaza fighting continues amid ‘apocalyptic’ conditions; Security Council to meet Friday – 7 Dec. 2023

ICJ Issues Provisional Measure to Syrian Arab Republic: “Take all Measures to Prevent Acts of Torture” and Preserve Evidence ICJ

By: Darleen Marie Patacchia,

Journal of Global Rights and Organizations Associate Articles Editor

The Hague, Netherlands – On November 16, 2023, with a vote of thirteen to two, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) mandated that the Syrian government “take all measures within its power to prevent acts of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” The Court further compelled the Syrian government to safeguard evidence linked to accusations of violations of the international Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (Convention). The ICJ’s provisional measure is not a ruling on the merits, but it is the first step towards international legal accountability.

Families of the disappeared and detained placed in front of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) October 10, 2023 | Photo Courtesy of Human Rights Watch.

Under the Convention, which Syria became a party to in 2004, a party state may bring an action erga omnes partes, against any other party to the treaty for a violation. The signatories have a common legal interest to ensure “that acts of torture are prevented and that, if they occur, their authors do not enjoy impunity.”

On June 8, 2023, Canada and the Netherlands brought suit against Syria in the ICJ for violating the Convention. They sought a declaration by the Court that Syria breached its duty to international law under the Convention and requiring Syria to accept responsibility for the violations, to cease ongoing violations, and to provide guarantees the acts will not be repeated. The Syrian government denies all torture allegations despite significant evidence from refugees, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and United Nations Observers. The Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) estimated that as of May of 2023, 15,275 civilians had been tortured to death, 154,817 were disappeared or arbitrarily arrested, and over 230,224 were killed.

The ICJ’s ruling marks a significant moment in the pursuit of justice for the thousands of victims of the Syrian government’s “enforced disappearances, abhorrent treatment of detainees, inhumane conditions of detention, [and] other acts committed in order to coerce, punish or terrorize the civilian population, and sexual and gender-based violence.” It came only twenty-four hours after France issued arrest warrants for President Bashar al-Assad, his brother, Maher al-Assad, and two other senior Syrian officials for crimes against humanity and war crimes. The warrants charge the officials with “complicity in the use of banned chemical weapons” against Syrian civilians.

While the International Court of Justice may not have enforcement capability, its decisions are binding and can potentially trigger U.N. Security Council action. International legal condemnation and publicized trial evidence may prompt supporters to distance themselves from the current Syrian government. The progression of the trial could also prove to be a valuable blockade to President Bashar al-Assad’s efforts to normalize international relations with Syria under his regime.

For further information, please see:

Human Rights Watch – World Court Rules Against Syria in Torture Case – 16 Nov. 2023

ICJ – Allegations of Torture under the Convention on Torture (Canada and The Netherlands v. Syrian Arab Republic), Provisional Measures, Order – 16 Nov. 2023

N.Y. Times – International Court Orders Syria to Stop Torture of Political Opponents – 16 Nov. 2023

Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM) – Press Release – 15 Nov. 2023

Syrian Network for Human Rights – Report on the Twelfth Anniversary of the Popular Uprising –  15 Mar. 2023

UN Human Rights | OHCHR – Behind the Data: Recording Civilian Casualties in Syria – 11 May 2023

UN Human Rights | OHCHR – Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment – 10 Dec. 1984

Israeli-Palestinian Tensions Escalating in the Middle East Threaten Peace to All

By: Mahogani Counts

Journal of Global Rights and Organizations, Associate Articles Editor

JERUSALEM, Israel – On Wednesday, April 5, 2022, Israeli police conducted an armed invasion into the third holiest site in Jerusalem, leading to the arrest of over 350 Muslims. Since these latest attacks, violent tensions have emerged between Israel and Palestine. According to CBS News, Palestinians attempted to stay overnight in the Al-Aqsa Mosque since the beginning of Ramadan, which began on March 22. However, worshipers can only stay overnight during the remaining ten days of Ramadan. Growing tired of defiance, Israeli officers entered the site daily to evict the worshipers.

Israeli border policemen take position near the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound [Ammar Awad/Reuters]

Thousands of Muslims arrived at the Al-Aqsa Mosque on Tuesday evening for worship. Israeli officials claimed officers were forced to enter the compound as people armed with fireworks and stones barricaded themselves inside. Talab Abu Eisha, present at the time of the raid, said that “the youths were afraid and started to close the doors.” Video footage of the mosque invasion shows officers beating Palestinians with batons and rifle butts while many were restrained. Eyewitnesses also reported that Israeli police broke windows, smashed doors, and fired stun grenades into the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

The attack on this holy site is profound because there are jurisdiction violations as well as human rights violations. Under international law, Israel does not have jurisdiction to act in East Jerusalem. Furthermore, Israeli entry into the Al-Aqsa Mosque is prohibited by the status quo agreement. Nevertheless, Israeli officers have persistently sought to prevent Muslims from praying in the compound overnight. This ritual of performing overnight prayer is called “itikaf” and it is customary for Muslims do to this during Ramadan. Although there is no explicit rule against overnight prayer at Al-Aqsa Mosque, Israeli police informed Cable News Network, or CNN, that Muslims specifically were not “allowed to be in the compound during night hours.”

At least twelve people were injured in the Mosque attack, and three of the injured were transported to the hospital. The Red Crescent reported to CNN that their ambulances were blocked by the police, which prevented them from attending to the injured. Unfortunately, this is not the only act of violence by Israel towards Muslims. Last week, Israeli police shot and killed a 26-year-old Palestinian man named Muhammad Al-Osaibi at the entrance of the Mosque. These recent attacks by Israel have led to greater turmoil within the nation.

After the attack on the Al-Aqsa Mosque, a dozen rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip aimed at Israel. A leader of the Hamas, a militant group that runs Gaza, stated the unprecedented violations by Israel will not pass. Thereafter, Israeli fighter jets fired at weapons manufacturing and storage sites in the Gaza Strip. It is unlikely that tensions will cool because Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said that they will return fire from any attacks and that they will make others regret threatening Israeli citizens. It is imperative that the attacks between Israel and Palestinians cease for the betterment of the country and civilians.


For further information, please see:

CNN – Israeli police storm al-Aqsa mosque for the second time on Wednesday – 6 Apr. 2023

CNN – The situation in Jerusalem is boiling over. Here’s how it all happened – 7 Apr. 2023

CBS News – Israeli forces storm Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque, arresting hundreds of Palestinian worshipers – 5 Apr. 2023

AlJazeera – Israel-Palestine updates: Police raid Al-Aqsa for a second night – 6 Apr. 2023

Wbur – Tensions escalate in Jerusalem after 2nd consecutive night of police raiding Al-Aqsa Mosque – 6 Apr. 2023

The World Cup Kicks Off in Qatar Amid Scrutiny

By: Hannah Gavin

Journal of Global Rights and Organizations, Senior Associate Member

LUSAIL, Qatar – Kicking off on November 20th, the FIFA World Cup began in Lusail, Qatar. The World Cup, while typically a joyous occasion, has been shrouded in questions about the civil rights status of many living within Qatar. Primarily these concerns which have garnered international attention, include issues with LGBTQIA+ people and migrant workers. Although some hope was given that there would be some mitigation of these issues prior to the start of the game, no such hope remains. 

Construction work in Doha, Qatar ahead of the 2022 World Cup. Photo courtesy of Tasneem Alsultan for The New York Times

Qatar is a small, oil-rich shore country on the Persian Gulf. The nation is a traditionally conservative Muslim nation which adheres to a strict interpretation of Islam. Many in the International community feared that the nation was not open enough to Western ideals to accommodate such a multicultural event. One concession Qatar made was to allow alcohol to be consumed within the stadiums. However, just two days before the first match, the country reneged on this promise and made the stadiums go dry.

One of the most prominent issues in the nation is its treatment of LGBTQIA+ people. It is illegal to be gay in Qatar. Any act that is considered “immoral” can lead to a prison sentence. Fans have feared that it may not be safe for LGBTQIA+ visitors in the nation. Despite reassurances from Qatari leaders, since the commencement of the games, there have been several instances of fans being forced to change out of rainbow dress and players being banned from wearing rainbow armbands. Although, so far, LGBTQIA+ fans within the designated stadium zones have gone unharmed, outside of the designated zones they do not have the same protections.

Another human rights issue in Qatar is the treatment of migrant workers. In the past decade, Qatar has welcomed millions of migrant workers in an attempt to make up for a lack of cheap labor within the country. Over three million migrants currently live in the nation. These workers worked in horrid conditions, getting paid on average less than $300 per month. Although Qatar claims less than 50 workers have been killed in the building of the stadiums, other estimates are in the thousands. Beyond this, many workers have been under the complete control of their employers with almost no autonomy. While many gather in the stadiums built by migrant workers, there are families across mainly southern Asia whose loved ones will never return.

Despite these serious concerns, the World Cup in Qatar will go on. The event is estimated to draw in over $10 billion for the country. Although a massive success even despite the controversy, no attendee can ignore that past the glitz and glam, there are real lives at risk in the small country. Once the matches end and the pitch is cleared, these individuals will have to continue on in a nation in which they are not valued. 


For further information, please see:

Britannica – Qatar: Host of the 2022 World Cup – 2022

Human Rights Watch – Qatar: Security Forces Arrest, Abuse LGBT People – Oct. 24, 2022

NPR – Here are the things World Cup fans are restricted from doing in Qatar – Nov. 19, 2022

NYT – The World Cup’s Forgotten Team – Nov. 16, 2022