This case, instituted by the United States on November 29, 1979, by means of a unilateral Application under Article 40 of the Statute of the Court and Article 38 of the Rules of Court, relates to the takeover of the American Embassy in Tehran and the American Consulates in Tabriz and Shiraz and the detention as hostages of some 50 Americans by so-called militants. According to one doctrine of the justiciability of disputes, it would be difficult to imagine a more tension-laden and therefore non-justiciable dispute, considering that, as contended by the United States both in the Application and the Request of November 29, 1979, for the indication of provisional measures under Article 41 of the Court’s Statute and Articles 73 and 74 of the Rules of Court, the Iranian Government was involved in the takeover and continues to be involved in the detention of the hostages. The circumstances, which in the view of the United States required the indication of provisional measures, were summarized by the Court in paragraph 34 of its Order of December 15, 1979, as follows:
(i) On 4 November 1979, in the course of a demonstration outside the United States Embassy compound in Tehran, demonstrators attacked the Embassy premises; no Iranian security forces intervened or were sent to relieve the situation, despite repeated calls for help from the Embassy to the Iranian authorities. Ultimately the whole of the Embassy premises was invaded. The Embassy personnel, including consular and non-American staff, and visitors who were present in the Embassy at the time were seized. Shortly afterwards, according to the United States Government, its consulates in Tabriz and Shiraz, which had been attacked earlier in 1979, were also seized, without any action being taken to prevent it;
(ii) Since that time, the premises of the United States Embassy in Tehran, and of the consulates in Tabriz and Shiraz, have remained in the hands of the persons who seized them. These persons have ransacked the archives and documents both of the diplomatic mission and of its consular section. The Embassy personnel and other persons seized at the time of the attack have been held hostage with the exception of 13 persons released on 18 and 20 November 1979. Those holding the hostages have refused to release them, save on condition of the fulfilment by the United States of various demands regarded by it as unacceptable. The hostages are stated to have frequently been bound, blindfolded, and subjected to severe discomfort, complete isolation and threats that they would be put on trial or even put to death. The United States Government affirms that it has reason to believe that some of them may have been transferred to other places of confinement;
(iii) The Government of the United States considers that not merely has the Iranian Government failed to prevent the events described above, but also that there is clear evidence of its complicity in, and approval of, those events;
(iv) The persons held hostage in the premises of the United States Embassy in Tehran include, according to the information furnished to the Court by the Agent of the United States, at least 28 persons having the status, duly recognized by the Government of Iran, of “member of the diplomatic staff” within the meaning of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961; at least 20 persons having the status, similarly recognized, of “members of the administrative and technical staff’ within the meaning of that Convention; and two other persons of United States nationality not possessing either diplomatic or consular status. Of the persons with the status of member of the diplomatic staff, four are members of the Consular Section of the Embassy;
(v) In addition to the persons held hostage in the premises of the Tehran Embassy, the United States Charge d’Affaires in Iran and two other United States diplomatic agents are detained in the premises of the Iranian Ministry for Foreign Affairs, in circumstances which the Government of the United States has not been able to make entirely clear, but which apparently involve restriction of their freedom of movement, and a threat to their inviolability as diplomats.