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United States Diplomatic and Consular Staff in Tehran (United States of America v. Iran)

Overview of the case

The case was brought before the Court by Application by the United States following the occupation of its Embassy in Tehran by Iranian militants on 4 November 1979, and the capture and holding as hostages of its diplomatic and consular staff. On a request by the United States for the indication of provisional measures, the Court held that there was no more fundamental prerequisite for relations between States than the inviolability of diplomatic envoys and embassies, and it indicated provisional measures for ensuring the immediate restoration to the United States of the Embassy premises and the release of the hostages. In its decision on the merits of the case, at a time when the situation complained of still persisted, the Court, in its Judgment of 24 May 1980, found that Iran had violated and was still violating obligations owed by it to the United States under conventions in force between the two countries and rules of general international law, that the violation of these obligations engaged its responsibility, and that the Iranian Government was bound to secure the immediate release of the hostages, to restore the Embassy premises, and to make reparation for the injury caused to the United States Government. The Court reaffirmed the cardinal importance of the principles of international law governing diplomatic and consular relations. It pointed out that while, during the events of 4 November 1979, the conduct of militants could not be directly attributed to the Iranian State — for lack of sufficient information — that State had however done nothing to prevent the attack, stop it before it reached its completion or oblige the militants to withdraw from the premises and release the hostages. The Court noted that, after 4 November 1979, certain organs of the Iranian State had endorsed the acts complained of and decided to perpetuate them, so that those acts were transformed into acts of the Iranian State. The Court gave judgment, notwithstanding the absence of the Iranian Government and after rejecting the reasons put forward by Iran in two communications addressed to the Court in support of its assertion that the Court could not and should not entertain the case. The Court was not called upon to deliver a further judgment on the reparation for the injury caused to the United States Government since, by Order of 12 May 1981, the case was removed from the List following discontinuance.


This overview is provided for information only and in no way involves the responsibility of the Court.

Institution of proceedings

Written proceedings

Memorial of the Government of the United States of America

12 January 1980
Procedure(s): Questions of jurisdiction and/or admissibility
Available in:
English

Oral proceedings

Verbatim record 1979

Oral arguments, Minutes of the Public sittings held from 18 to 20 March and on 24 May 1980, President Sir Humphrey Waldock presiding
Procedure(s): Provisional measures
Available in:
Original Language

Verbatim record 1980

Oral arguments, Minutes of the Public sittings held from 18 to 20 March and on 24 May 1980, President Sir Humphrey Waldock presiding
Procedure(s): Questions of jurisdiction and/or admissibility
Available in:
Original Language

Other documents

Documents submitted to the Court after the filing of the Memorial

19 March 1981
Procedure(s): Questions of jurisdiction and/or admissibility
Available in:
English

Orders

Order of 15 December 1979

Request for the indication of Provisional Measures
Procedure(s): Provisional measures
Available in:
English French Bilingual

Order of 24 December 1979

Fixing of time-limits: Memorial and Counter-Memorial
Available in:
English French Bilingual

Order of 12 May 1981

Removal from the list
Procedure(s): Discontinuance
Available in:
English French Bilingual

Judgments

Summaries of Judgments and Orders

Summary 1979/1

Summary of the Order of 15 December 1979
Available in:
English French

Summary 1980/1

Summary of the Judgment of 24 May 1980
Available in:
English French

Press releases

Press release 1979/3

29 November 1979
The United States institutes proceedings against Iran
Available in:
English French

Press release 1979/4

30 November 1979
United States Diplomatic and Consular Staff in Tehran (United States of America v. Iran) - A telegram is sent to both Governments
Available in:
English French

Press release 1979/5

3 December 1979
United States Diplomatic and Consular Staff in Tehran (United States of America v. Iran) - Public hearing to be held on 10 December at 3 p.m.
Available in:
English French

Press release 1979/6

14 December 1979
United States Diplomatic and Consular Staff in Tehran (United States of America v. Iran) - Court's decision on request for provisional measures to be made known at public sitting on 15 December
Available in:
English French

Press release 1979/7

15 December 1979
United States Diplomatic and Consular Staff in Tehran (United States of America v. Iran) - The International Court of Justice indicates provisional measures
Available in:
English French

Press release 1980/1

17 January 1980
United States Diplomatic and Consular Staff in Tehran (United States of America v. Iran) - United States files Memorial
Available in:
English French

Press release 1980/2

17 March 1980
United States Diplomatic and Consular Staff in Tehran (United States of America v. Iran) - Hearings to open on Tuesday 18 March 1980 at 3 p.m.
Available in:
English French

Press release 1980/3

20 March 1980
United States Diplomatic and Consular Staff in Tehran (United States of America v. Iran) - Hearings held on 18 to 20 March 1980
Available in:
English French

Press release 1980/4

21 May 1980
United States Diplomatic and Consular Staff in Tehran (United States of America v. Iran) - Judgment to be delivered on Saturday 24 May
Available in:
English French

Press release 1980/5

24 May 1980
United States Diplomatic and Consular Staff in Tehran (United States of America v. Iran) - The Court delivers its Judgment
Available in:
English French

Press release 1981/8

12 May 1981
United States Diplomatic and Consular Staff in Tehran (United States of America v. Iran) - Case removed from the Court's list
Available in:
English French

Correspondence

Correspondence

29 November 1979
Correspondence
Available in:
English French