Skip to Content

UN Court Orders U.S. to Lift Iran Sanctions on ‘Humanitarian’ Goods

The UN’s highest court ruled in favor of Iran on Wednesday, ordering the U.S. to lift sanctions on humanitarian goods to the country.

The sanctions were re-imposed earlier this year when President Trump pulled out of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. But in July, Tehran filed a lawsuit against the U.S. at the International Court of Justice, claiming that the sanctions violated the 1955 Treaty of Amity between the two countries. While the ICJ’s ruling is binding, it has no enforcement mechanisms.

The court said that the U.S. must “remove by means of its choosing any impediment to the free exportation to Iran of goods involving humanitarian concerns,” citing humanitarian grounds in its ruling. It further stated that the assurances provided by the U.S. were “not adequate to address fully the humanitarian and safety concerns” raised by Iran, noting that the sanctions “may have a serious detrimental impact on the health and lives of individuals on the territory of Iran.”

The U.S. is ordered to lift sanctions on the export of the following items: medicines and medical devices; foodstuffs and agricultural commodities; spareparts, equipment, and repair services for civil aviation. The ruling also calls on the U.S. to ensure the granting of licenses and authorizations and not to restrict payment for these goods and services.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif had claimed the sanctions amounted to “psychological warfare,” intended to bring about regime change. Following Wednesday’s ruling, Zarif called on the international community to “collectively counter malign U.S. unilateralism,” and noted that it marked a “failure for sanctions-addicted USG and victory for rule of law.”

Nevertheless, it is unclear if the ruling will drive the Trump administration to make any changes to its existing policy. The U.S. had argued in court that the ICJ had no jurisdiction as the case concerned national security.

Washington is due to impose a new series of sanctions on Tehran in early November.