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UN court orders USA to lift sanctions affecting Iran air safety

International Court of Justice judges have ruled that the US government must lift sanctions against Iran which pose a threat to civil aviation safety.

The ruling follows consideration of measures imposed by President Donald Trump’s administration in May this year, when the USA withdrew from participating in a multinational deal on Iran’s nuclear programme.

Sanctions against export of commercial aircraft and parts to Iran took effect in early August, following a 90-day wind-down period.

But Iranian representatives alleged that the US government was violating a 1955 treaty on amity and economic relations between the two countries, and initiated proceedings on the issue in July.

The International Court of Justice in The Hague states that, while some of Iran’s rights under the treaty might have been affected by US consideration of national security interests, it view other rights – such as those relating to import of humanitarian goods, or services to ensure civil aviation safety – as not being so.

Some of these rights, it adds, are such that disregarding them “may entail irreparable consequences”, notably if they expose people to threats to health and life.

“In [the court’s] opinion, the measures adopted by the [USA] have the potential to endanger civil aviation safety in Iran and the lives of its users to the extent that they prevent Iranian airlines from acquiring spare parts and other necessary equipment [or services],” it says.

It has ruled unanimously that the US government, in line with the 1955 treaty, “must remove” any impediments to the free export to Iran of spares, equipment and services necessary to preserve safety of civil aviation.

The court, the primary judicial agency of the United Nations, has also issued a similar ruling covering the export of medicines and agricultural commodities.

It points out that there is an “urgency” to the situation, given that the effect of the US sanctions is continuing, with “little prospect of improvement”, and that additional restrictive measures are scheduled to be imposed in early November.

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