Links

Site search
Document search
Contact

The Court

History
Members of the Court
Presidency
Chambers and Committees
Judges ad hoc
How the Court Works
Financial Assistance to Parties
Annual Reports

The Registry

Registrar
Organizational Chart of the Registry
Texts governing the Registry
Library of the Court
Employment
University traineeship program
Internships
Procurement

Cases

List of All Cases
Judgments, Advisory Opinions and Orders

Basic Documents

Charter of the United Nations
Statute of the Court
Rules of Court
Practice Directions
Other Texts

Jurisdiction

Contentious Jurisdiction
Advisory Jurisdiction

Press Room

Press releases
Calendar
Media Services
Multimedia
Frequently Asked Questions

Practical Information

Directions
Visits
Links
Frequently Asked Questions

Publications

Introduction

Permanent Court of International Justice

Series A: Collection of Judgments (1923-1930)
Series B: Collection of Advisory Opinions (1923-1930)
Series A/B: Collection of Judgments, Orders and Advisory Opinions (from 1931)
Series C: Acts and documents relating to Judgments and Advisory Opinions given by the Court / Pleadings, Oral Arguments and Documents
Series D: Acts and Documents concerning the organization of the Court
Series E: Annual Reports
Series F: General Indexes
Other documents


Français

Oil Platforms (Islamic Republic of Iran v. United States of America)

Overview of the case

On 2 November 1992, the Islamic Republic of Iran filed in the Registry of the Court an Application instituting proceedings against the United States of America with respect to the destruction of Iranian oil platforms. The Islamic Republic founded the jurisdiction of the Court upon a provision of the Treaty of Amity, Economic Relations and Consular Rights between Iran and the United States, signed at Tehran on 15 August 1955. In its Application, Iran alleged that the destruction caused by several warships of the United States Navy, in October 1987 and April 1988, to three offshore oil production complexes, owned and operated for commercial purposes by the National Iranian Oil Company, constituted a fundamental breach of various provisions of the Treaty of Amity and of international law. Time-limits for the filing of written pleadings were then fixed and subsequently extended by two Orders of the President of the Court. On 16 December 1993, within the extended time-limit for filing the Counter-Memorial, the United States of America filed a preliminary objection to the Court’s jurisdiction. In accordance with the terms of Article 79, paragraph 3, of the Rules of Court, the proceedings on the merits were suspended ; by an Order of 18 January 1994, the Court fixed 1 July 1994 as the time-limit within which Iran could present a written statement of its observations and submissions on the objection, which was filed within the prescribed time-limit.

In its Judgment of 12 December 1996, the Court rejected the preliminary objection raised by the United States of America and found that it had jurisdiction, on the basis of Article XXI, paragraph 2, of the Treaty of 1955, to entertain the claims made by Iran under Article X, paragraph 1, of that Treaty, which protects freedom of commerce and navigation between the territories of the Parties.

When filing its Counter-Memorial, the United States of America submitted a counter-claim requesting the Court to adjudge and declare that, through its actions in the Persian Gulf in 1987 and 1988, Iran had also breached its obligations under Article X of the Treaty of 1955. Iran having disputed the admissibility of that counter-claim under Article 80, paragraph 1, of the Rules, the Court ruled on the matter in an Order of 10 March 1998. It found that the counter-claim was admissible as such and formed part of the current proceedings, and directed Iran to submit a Reply and the United States to submit a Rejoinder. Those pleadings were filed within the extended time-limits thus fixed. In its Order of 1998, the Court also stated that it was necessary, in order to ensure strict equality between the Parties, to reserve the right of Iran to present its views in writing a second time on the counter-claim, in an additional pleading, the filing of which might be the subject of a subsequent Order. Such an Order was made by the Vice-President on 28 August 2001, and Iran subsequently filed its additional pleading within the time-limits fixed. Public sittings on the claim of Iran and the counter-claim of the United States of America were held from 17 February to 7 March 2003.

The Court delivered its Judgment on 6 November 2003. Iran had contended that, in attacking on two occasions and destroying three offshore oil production complexes, owned and operated for commercial purposes by the National Iranian Oil Company, the United States had violated freedom of commerce between the territories of the Parties as guaranteed by the 1955 Treaty of Amity, Economic Relations and Consular Rights between the United States and Iran. It sought reparation for the injury thus caused. The United States had argued in its counter-claim that it was Iran which had violated the 1955 Treaty by attacking vessels in the Gulf and otherwise engaging in military actions that were dangerous and detrimental to commerce and navigation between the United States and Iran. The United States likewise sought reparation.

The Court first considered whether the actions by American naval forces against the Iranian oil complexes were justified under the 1955 Treaty as measures necessary to protect the essential security interests of the United States (Art. XX, para. 1 (d), of the Treaty). Interpreting the Treaty in light of the relevant rules of international law, it concluded that the United States was only entitled to have recourse to force under the provision in question if it was acting in self-defence. The United States could exercise such a right of self-defence only if it had been the victim of an armed attack by Iran and the United States actions must have been necessary and proportional to the armed attack against it. After carrying out a detailed examination of the evidence provided by the Parties, the Court found that the United States had not succeeded in showing that these various conditions were satisfied, and concluded that the United States was therefore not entitled to rely on the provisions of Article XX, paragraph 1 (d), of the 1955 Treaty.

The Court then examined the issue of whether the United States, in destroying the platforms, had impeded their normal operation, thus preventing Iran from enjoying freedom of commerce “between the territories of the two High Contracting Parties” as guaranteed by the 1955 Treaty (Art. X, para. 1). It concluded that, as regards the first attack, the platforms attacked were under repair and not operational, and that at that time there was thus no trade in crude oil from those platforms between Iran and the United States. Accordingly, the attack on those platforms could not be considered as having affected freedom of commerce between the territories of the two States. The Court reached the same conclusion in respect of the later attack on two other complexes, since all trade in crude oil between Iran and the United States had been suspended as a result of an embargo imposed by an Executive Order adopted by the American authorities. The Court thus found that the United States had not breached its obligations to Iran under Article X, paragraph 1, of the 1955 Treaty and rejected Iran’s claim for reparation.

In regard to the United States counter-claim, the Court, after rejecting the objections to jurisdiction and admissibility raised by Iran, considered whether the incidents attributed by the United States to Iran infringed freedom of commerce or navigation between the territories of the Parties as guaranteed by Article X, paragraph 1, of the 1955 Treaty. The Court found that none of the ships alleged by the United States to have been damaged by Iranian attacks was engaged in commerce or navigation between the territories of the two States. Nor did the Court accept the generic claim by the United States that the actions of Iran had made the Persian Gulf unsafe for shipping, concluding that, according to the evidence before it, there was not, at the relevant time, any actual impediment to commerce or navigation between the territories of Iran and the United States. The Court accordingly rejected the United States counter-claim for reparation.


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

Institution of proceedings

Written proceedings

Memorial submitted by the Islamic Republic of Iran

8 June 1993
Procedure(s): Counter-claims
Available in:
English

Preliminary Objection submitted by the United States of America

16 December 1993
Procedure(s): Preliminary objections
Available in:
English

Rejoinder submitted by the United States of America

23 March 2001
Procedure(s): Counter-claims
Available in:
English

Oral proceedings

Verbatim record 1996/12

Public sitting held on Monday 16 September 1996, at 3 p.m., at the Peace Palace, President Bedjaoui presiding
Procedure(s): Preliminary objections
Available in:
Original Language

Verbatim record 1996/13

Public sitting held on Monday 17 September 1996, at 9.30 a.m., at the Peace Palace, President Bedjaoui presiding
Procedure(s): Preliminary objections
Available in:
Original Language

Verbatim record 1996/14

Public sitting held on Thursday 19 September 1996, at 10 a.m., at the Peace Palace, President Bedjaoui presiding
Procedure(s): Preliminary objections
Available in:
Original Language

Verbatim record 1996/15

Public sitting held on Friday 20 September 1996, at 10.00 a.m., at the Peace Palace, President Bedjaoui presiding
Procedure(s): Preliminary objections
Available in:
Original Language

Verbatim record 1996/16

Public sitting held on Monday 23 September 1996, at 10.00 a.m., at the Peace Palace, President Bedjaoui presiding
Procedure(s): Preliminary objections
Available in:
Original Language

Verbatim record 1996/17

Public sitting held on Tuesday 24 September 1996, at 10.00 a.m., at the Peace Palace, President Bedjaoui presiding
Procedure(s): Preliminary objections
Available in:
Original Language

Verbatim record 2003/5

Public sitting held on Monday 17 February 2003, at 3 p.m., at the Peace Palace, President Shi presiding
Procedure(s): Counter-claims
Available in:
Original Language
Translation
(bilingual version) Translation

Verbatim record 2003/6

Public sitting held on Tuesday 18 February 2003, at 10 a.m., at the Peace Palace, President Shi presiding
Procedure(s): Counter-claims
Available in:
Original Language
Translation
(bilingual version) Translation

Verbatim record 2003/7

Public sitting held on Wednesday 19 February 2003, at 10 a.m., at the Peace Palace, President Shi presiding
Procedure(s): Counter-claims
Available in:
Original Language
Translation
(bilingual version) Translation

Verbatim record 2003/8

Public sitting held on Wednesday 19 February 2003, at 3 p.m., at the Peace Palace, President Shi presiding
Procedure(s): Counter-claims
Available in:
Original Language
Translation
(bilingual version) Translation

Verbatim record 2003/9

Public sitting held on Friday 21 February 2003, at 10 a.m., at the Peace Palace, President Shi presiding
Procedure(s): Counter-claims
Available in:
Original Language
Translation
(bilingual version) Translation

Verbatim record 2003/10

Public sitting held on Monday 24 February 2003, at 3 p.m., at the Peace Palace, President Shi presiding
Procedure(s): Counter-claims
Available in:
Original Language
Translation
(bilingual version) Translation

Verbatim record 2003/11

Public sitting held on Tuesday 25 February 2003, at 10 a.m., at the Peace Palace, President Shi presiding
Procedure(s): Counter-claims
Available in:
Original Language
Translation
(bilingual version) Translation

Verbatim record 2003/12

Public sitting held on Wednesday 26 February 2003, at 10 a.m., at the Peace Palace, President Shi presiding
Procedure(s): Counter-claims
Available in:
Original Language
Translation
(bilingual version) Translation

Verbatim record 2003/13

Public sitting held on Wednesday 26 February 2003, at 3 p.m., at the Peace Palace, President Shi presiding
Procedure(s): Counter-claims
Available in:
Original Language
Translation
(bilingual version) Translation

Verbatim record 2003/14

Public sitting held on Friday 28 February 2003, at 10 a.m., at the Peace Palace, President Shi presiding
Procedure(s): Counter-claims
Available in:
Original Language
Translation
(bilingual version) Translation

Verbatim record 2003/15

Public sitting held on Monday 3 March 2003, at 10 a.m., at the Peace Palace, President Shi presiding
Procedure(s): Counter-claims
Available in:
Original Language
Translation
(bilingual version) Translation

Verbatim record 2003/16

Public sitting held on Monday 3 March 2003, at 3 p.m., at the Peace Palace, President Shi presiding
Procedure(s): Counter-claims
Available in:
Original Language
Translation
(bilingual version) Translation

Verbatim record 2003/17

Public sitting held on Wednesday 5 March 2003, at 10 a.m., at the Peace Palace, President Shi presiding
Procedure(s): Counter-claims
Available in:
Original Language
Translation
(bilingual version) Translation

Verbatim record 2003/18

Public sitting held on Wednesday 5 March 2003, at 3 p.m., at the Peace Palace, President Shi presiding
Procedure(s): Counter-claims
Available in:
Original Language
Translation
(bilingual version) Translation

Verbatim record 2003/19

Public sitting held on Friday 7 March 2003, at 10 a.m., at the Peace Palace, President Shi presiding
Procedure(s): Counter-claims
Available in:
Original Language
Translation
(bilingual version) Translation

Other documents

Written answers of the United States of America to questions put by Judges

2 October 1996
Procedure(s): Preliminary objections
Available in:
English French

Corrigendum submitted by the United States of America

23 June 1997
Procedure(s): Counter-claims
Available in:
English

Orders

Order of 4 December 1992

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

Order of 3 June 1993

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

Order of 18 January 1994

Fixing of time-limit: Written Statement of observations and submissions on Preliminary Objections
Available in:
English French Bilingual

Order of 16 December 1996

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

Order of 26 May 1998

Extension of time-limits Reply and Rejoinder
Available in:
English French Bilingual

Order of 8 December 1998

Extension of time-limits Reply and Rejoinder
Available in:
English French Bilingual

Order of 4 September 2000

Extension of time-limit Rejoinder
Available in:
English French Bilingual

Order of 28 August 2001

Authorizing submission of pleading relating to Counter-Claim and fixing of time-limit therefor
Procedure(s): Counter-claims
Available in:
English French Bilingual

Judgments

Summaries of Judgments and Orders

Summary 1996/4

Summary of the Order of 12 December 1996
Available in:
English French

Summary 2003/2

Summary of the Judgment of 6 November 2003
Available in:
English French

Press releases

Press release 1989/6

17 May 1989
Iran brings a case against the United States
Available in:
English French

Press release 1989/25

18 December 1989
Aerial Incident of 3 July 1988 (Islamic Republic of Iran v. United States of America) - Fixing of time-limits
Available in:
English French

Press release 1992/26

2 November 1992
Iran brings a new case against the United States
Available in:
English French

Press release 1992/27

10 December 1992
Oil Platforms (Islamic Republic of Iran v. United States of America) - Fixing of time-limits
Available in:
English French

Press release 1994/3

27 January 1994
Oil Platforms (Islamic Republic of Iran v. United States of America) - Fixing of the time-limit by Iran of its observations and submissions on the preliminary objections raised by the United States of America
Available in:
English French

Press release 1996/4

6 February 1996
Oil Platforms (Islamic Republic of Iran v. United States of America) - Hearings on preliminary objections to open on 16 September 1996
Available in:
English French

Press release 1996/27

9 September 1996
Oil Platforms (Islamic Republic of Iran v. United States of America) - Hearings on preliminary objections to open on 16 September 1996
Available in:
English French

Press release 1996/28

25 September 1996
Oil Platforms (Islamic Republic of Iran v. United States of America) - Preliminary objection - Progress and conclusion of public hearings
Available in:
English French

Press release 1996/31

3 December 1996
Oil Platforms (Islamic Republic of Iran v. United States of America) - Judgment on preliminary objection to be delivered on 12 December 1996
Available in:
English French

Press release 1996/33

12 December 1996
Oil Platforms (Islamic Republic of Iran v. United States of America) - Judgment on preliminary objection
Available in:
English French

Press release 1996/34

20 December 1996
Oil Platforms (Islamic Republic of Iran v. United States of America) - Proceedings on the merits
Available in:
English French

Press release 1998/10

19 March 1998
Oil Platforms (Islamic Republic of Iran v. United States of America) - The Court finds United States counter-claim admissible
Available in:
English French

Press release 1998/19

26 May 1998
Oil Platforms (Islamic Republic of Iran v. United States of America) - Extension of time-limits for the filing of written pleadings
Available in:
English French

Press release 1998/42

9 December 1998
Oil Platforms (Islamic Republic of Iran v. United States of America) - Extension of time-limits for the filing of written pleadings
Available in:
English French

Press release 2000/26

8 September 2000
Oil Platforms (Islamic Republic of Iran v. United States of America) - Time-limit for the filing of United States Rejoinder extended by four months
Available in:
English French

Press release 2001/21

30 August 2001
Oil Platforms (Islamic Republic of Iran v. United States of America) - Iran authorized to submit an additional written pleading relating solely to the United States counter-claim
Available in:
English French

Press release 2003/3

20 January 2003
Oil Platforms (Islamic Republic of Iran v. United States of America) - The Court will hold public hearings from Monday 17 February to Friday 7 March 2003
Available in:
English French

Press release 2003/13

7 March 2003
Oil Platforms (Islamic Republic of Iran v. United States of America) - Conclusion of the public hearings - Court ready to begin its deliberation
Available in:
English French

Press release 2003/33

22 October 2003
Oil Platforms (Islamic Republic of Iran v. United States of America) - Court to deliver its Judgment on Thursday 6 November 2003 at 3 p.m.
Available in:
English French

Press release 2003/38

6 November 2003
Oil Platforms (Islamic Republic of Iran v. United States of America) - Decision of the Court
Available in:
English French