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International Court of Justice (ICJ): Case Concerning Oil Platforms (Iran v. United States)

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  27 February 2017


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1 The list of 546 incidents also includes the United States attacks on the oil platforms.

2 Sir Gerald Fitzmaurice, The Law and Procedure of the International Court of Justice, 1986, Vol. II, p. 578.

3 Sir Hersch Lauterpacht, The Development of International Law by the International Court, 1982, p. 61 (emphasis added).

4 Michael J. Trebilcock and Robert Howse, The Regulation of International Trade, 1999, p. 128.

1 Fitzmaurice, Gerald, The Law and Procedure of the International Court of Justice, Vol. II, p. 529 (1986)Google Scholar. See also, Rosenne, Shabtai, The Law and Practice of the International Court of Justice, Vol. I, p. 173 (1997)Google Scholar.

2 That Article reads as follows: “ 1. The present Treaty shall not preclude the application of measures:(d) necessary to fulfil the obligations of a High Contracting Party for the maintenance or restoration of international peace and security, or necessary to protect its essential security interests.” Only the last phrase of subparagraph l(dj, is relevant to this case, the first part not having been invoked.

1 As well as the reason why I prefer to label the present opinion a “separate” and not a “dissenting” opinion despite disagreeing with the majority of the Court's main findings in the case.

2 Oil Platforms (Islamic Republic of Iran v. United States of America), Preliminary Objection, Judgment, I.C.J. Reports 1996, at pp. 817 ff, 821.

3 Ibid., p. 814, para. 28.

4 Ibid., p. 815, para. 31.

5 Article I is only referred to in the Judgment once (in para. 41) to support a conclusion which I consider cogent for rather more obvious reasons, namely that Article XX, paragraph \(d), of the Treaty (on which infra) must not be read as allowing any use of force between the parties that is not permissible, or justified, under the relevant rules of international law. Paragraph 41 considers the opposite view “hardly consistent with Article I.“

6 I.C.J. Reports 1996, p. 812, para. 21.

7 Respectively freedom of navigation; see infra on the United States counter-claim.

8 CR 2003/11, p. 16; CR 2003/12, p. 14.

9 Corfu Channel, Merits, Judgment, l.C.J. Reports 1949, p. 35.

10 Cf. Secretary-General Kofi Annan's Address to the General Assembly of 23 September 2003, General Assembly, 7th Plenary Meeting, 23 September 2003, A/58/PV.7, at p. 3.

11 With the exception of a reference in paragraph 51 to Article 51 of the Charter as determining the meaning of “armed attacks.“

12 Dissenting opinion of Judge Sir Robert Jennings, Military and Paramilitary Activities in and against Nicaragua (Nicaragua v. United States of America), Merits, Judgment, I.C.J. Reports 1986, p. 541. Sir Robert referred to the exact counterpart of Article XX, paragraph l(d), in the FNC Treaty between the United States and Nicaragua. The remaining doubts in Sir Robert's mind (cf. ibid.) were, in my view, unnecessary.

13 Article 31, paragraph 3(c), of the 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties.

14 I.C.J. Reports 1996, p. 814, para. 28.

15 Military and Paramilitary Activities in and against Nicaragua (Nicaragua v. United States of America), Merits, Judgment, I.C.J. Reports 1986, e.g., p. 101, para. 191; p. 103, para. 194; p. 127, para. 249.

16 Ibid., p. 101, para. 194.

17 I have not developed this view ad hoc, under the impact of the present case, but as long as 20 years ago; see A. Verdross-B. Simma, Universelles Völkerrecht. Theorie und Praxis, 3rd ed., 1984, p. 240, para. 472.

18 I.CJ. Reports 1986, p. 127, para. 249.

19 Cf. Articles 49-54 of the ILC's text on the Responsibility of States for Internationally Wrongful Acts, adopted in 2001; cf. International Law Commission, Report on the Work of its Fifty-Third Session, Official Records of the General Assembly, Fifty-Sixth Session, Supplement No. 10 (A/56/10). The Commission strictly excluded from its concept of “countermeasures” any such measures amounting to a threat or use of force; cf. Article 50, para. 1 (a).

20 Paragraph 47 of the Judgment clarifies that, while the United States attack was made solely on two platforms belonging to the Reshadat complex, it affected also the operation of the Resalat complex.

21 Judgment, 1934, P.C.I.J., Series A/B, No. 63, p. 65.

22 Oil Platforms, Preliminary Objection, Judgment, I.C.J. Reports 1996, p. 819, para. 49.

23 Cf. para. 92 of the Judgment.

24 Pellet, CR 2003/6, p. 28.

25 Oil Platforms, Preliminary Objection, Judgment, I.C.J. Reports 1996, p. 819, para. 50.

26 Pellet, CR 2003/6, p. 33, paras. 68 and 70; p. 34, para. 73.

27 Cf. para. 96 of the present Judgment and infra paragraph 30.

28 Cf. ibid., paras. 96 ff. In the Court's view “ [t]his is not ‘commerce’ between Iran and the United States, but commerce between Iran and an intermediate purchaser; and ‘commerce’ between an intermediate seller and the United States (ibid., para. 97).

29 Crawford, CR 2003/5, pp. 3 ff.

30 Reply and Defence to Counter-Claim submitted by Iran (RI), Vol. Ill, Odell Report, p. 10.

31 Ibid., p. 12.

32 Ibid., p. 9.

33 And Resalat, see supra, footnote 20.

34 More precisely, para. 123 states that “according to the material before the Court the commerce and navigation between Iran and the United States continued during the war until the issuance of the United States embargo on 29 October 1987, and subsequently at least to the extent permitted by the exceptions to the embargo.“ As set forth in paragraph 90 of the Judgment, the embargo prohibited the import into the United States of most goods, including oil, and services of Iranian origin. Most but not all goods were affected by the embargo, which means that certain goods could still be imported freely into the United States from Iran. Commerce between the two Parties, which is not limited to commerce in oil, therefore continued even after the issuance of the embargo. However, the fact that commerce between the two Parties continued during the war does not, in and of itself, demonstrate that Iran's actions did not impede on the freedom of commerce and navigation between the two Parties. Had it not been for the impediments resulting from Iranian actions, there might have been more commerce between the two Parties. In other words, some commerce was still going on during the war, but not as much as would have been the case absent Iran's actions detrimental to commercial shipping between the Parties.

35 Iran found it “useful to analyse the US's claims in two ways: first, to the extent the United States refers to attacks on specific vessels (the specific claims), and secondly, to the extent that it refers to a more general impairment of the freedom of commerce between the territories of the High Contracting Parties (the generic claim)” (RI, para. 9.22). Iran then proceeded to analyse both “claims”.

36 Specific incidents were mentioned by the United States in order to illustrate the assertion that “Iran's actions resulted in extremely dangerous conditions for all vessels operating in the Gulf, including a number of United States vessels which suffered severe property damage and injury to their crews” (Counter-Memorial and Counter-Claim submitted by the United States of America (CMUS), para. 6.09).

37 CR 2003/13, pp. 42-43, paras. 21.61-21.63.

38 Ibid., p. 43, para. 21.64.

39 Military and Paramilitary Activities in and against Nicaragua (Nicaragua v. United States of America), I.C.J. Reports 1986, p. 48, para. 81.

40 According to Iran, the United States had to prove the following with respect to the generic claim:the existence of commerce between the territories of the High Contracting Parties, independently of any individually named ship or other instrumentality; that conduct attributable to Iran violated the freedom of that commerce, contrary to Article X( 1) of the Treaty of Amity; and (eventually) the quantum of damages or compensation directly attributable to that violation. Iran's response to the counter-claim at para. 9.24 (emphasis added).

41 CR 2003/13, pp. 20-21, paras. 20.7-20.14.

42 Observations and Submissions of Iran on the United States Preliminary Objection, Exhibit 27.

43 CMUS, Exhibit 52.

44 Ibid. Exhibit 53.

45 Ibid. Exhibit 43, para. 15, Exhibit 53.

46 The only response provided by Iran was that it could not have laid those mines there since Iranian ships used that route too. See CR 2003/14 at para. 39.

47 CMUS, Exhibit 37.

48 Ibid., Exhibit 34.

49 D. Schindler-J. Toman, Droit des Conflits Armes, Comite International de la Croix Rouge&Institut Henry-Dunant (eds.), 1996, pp. 1115-1120.

50 Information available at < l&Count= 150&Expand= 1919> (last visited 28 October 2003).

51 CMUS, Annex, Vol. VI, Exhibit 172, p. 282: “It is probably also true that [the States which did not accede to the Hague Convention (VIII)] may not lay mines off the enemy coast merely to intercept neutral shipping, that they are bound to observe the duty to notify the laying of mines, that they have to take additional safety measures to protect innocent shipping and that they must also remove mines at the end of the war.” (Emphasis added.) See also ibid., Exhibit 173, pp. 168-169.

52 Military and Paramilitary Activities in and against Nicaragua (Nicaragua v. United States of America), I.C.J. Reports 1986, p. 112, para. 215.

53 CMUS, p. 64, paras. 1.91-1.95.

54 Ibid., p. 161, para. 6.04.

55 Ibid., Exhibit 6; Exhibit 17, pp. 3-4; Exhibit 19; Exhibit 52, p. 19.

56 Ibid., para. 6.04. See also ibid., Exhibit 22, p. 2 and Exhibit 32, p. 3.

57 Ibid., p. 166, para. 6.08.

58 Order of 10 March 1998 on the counter-claim, I.C.J. Reports 1998, p. 204, para. 36 (emphasis added).

59 Military and Paramilitary Activities in and against Nicaragua (Nicaragua v. United States of America), I. C.J. Reports 1986, pp. 128 ff., para. 253.

60 Ibid., pp. 139 ff., para. 278.

61 “Our routing obviously cost KOTC considerable time and money. The day spent waiting in Jubayl was an extra day of war zone bonuses to the crews and war risk premiums, since war risk premiums had to be paid for the whole period the vessel was within the Arabian Gulf…” (CMUS, Exhibit 31, p. 3, para. 8; see also ibid., para. 6.)

62 Rejoinder of the United States (RUS), Exhibit 180, p. 1, paras. 1-3.

63 Ibid., para. 7.

64 CMUS, Exhibit 52.

65 RUS, Exhibit 180, p. 2, para. 8; see also CMUS, Exhibit 7.

66 It is instructive that in the Nicaragua case the Court also noted that the explosion of mines created “risks causing a rise in marine insurance rates” (I.C.J. Reports 1986, p. 48, para. 80). Later, the Court stated again that “Nicaragua's claim is justified not only as to the physical damage to its vessels, but also the consequential damage to its trade and commerce” (ibid., p. 139, para. 278).

67 CR 2003/14, paras. 41-43.

68 RI, p. 220, para. 11.5.

69 Military and Paramilitary Activities in and against Nicaragua (Nicaragua v. United States of America), I.C.J. Reports 1986, p. 129, para. 253 (emphasis added).

70 RUS, Exhibit 180, p. 2, para. 11.

71 RI, p. 220, para. 14.

72 Ibid., para. 15.

73 Ibid., para. 16. For Chevron, such protection amounted up to 40,000 a day.

74 CMUS, p. 160. While I believe that Iran's actions were inconsistent with Article X of the 1955 Treaty, it is not my view that such actions reached the level of an “armed attack” against the United States in the meaning of Article 51 of the United Nations Charter. There is thus no inconsistency between what I conclude here and what I have said on Article XX of the 1955 Treaty (see the respective section of the present opinion).

75 In this regard, cf. para. 44 of the Judgment: “the Court notes that it is not disputed between the Parties that neutral shipping in the Persian Gulf was caused considerable inconvenience and loss, and grave damage, during the Iran-Iraq war. It notes also that this was to a great extent due to the presence of mines and minefields laid by both sides.“

76 Summers v. Tice, 33 Cal. 2d 80 (1948).

77 Ibid., p. 83.

78 Ibid., p. 84.

79 Ibid., p. 84.

80 Ibid., p. 85.

81 Ibid., p. SI.

82 Ibid., p. 88.

83 Rest.2d Torts, s 433B, subsec (3).

84 [1951] SCR 830. On Canadian law, see also Jean-Louis Baudoin, La responsabilité civile délictuelle (1973), p. 164, para. 235.

85 Markesinis&Deakin, Tort Law, 4th ed. (1999), p. 185.

86 H.,L. and Mazeaud, J., Traité théorique et pratique de la responsabilité civile délictuelle et contractuelle, Vol. II, 6th ed. (1970), p. 1078 Google Scholar, para. 1952; see also Boris Starck, Henri Roland and Laurent Boyer, Obligations: 1. Responsabilité délictuelle , 5th ed. (1996), p. 468, para. 1142; René Rodière, La responsabilité délictuelle dans la jurisprudence (1978), pp. 346-348, para. 119. In particular, Rodière reproduces a decision of the Cour de Cassation dating from 1892, which, as he notes, has been consistently followed by various jurisdictions and approved by doctrine (Civ. 11 juillet 1892).

87 Boris Starck et al (ibid.), p. 454, para. 1102.

88 Ibid., p. 455, para. 1104.

89 Georges Scyboz and Pierre-Robert Gilliéron, Code civil suisse et code des obligations annotés, 5th ed (1993); see also Danielle Gauthey Ladner, Solidarité et consorité en matière délictuelle en droit suisse et américain, en particulier new-yorkais (2002) p. 57, para. 2.5, and p. 70, para. 4.

90 Georges Scyboz and Pierre-Robert Gillieron, op. cit., commentary on Articles 50 and 51.

91 Palandt-Thomas, 62nd ed. (2003), § 830 BGB Rn 7. For some of the precedents in German jurisprudence see BGH NJW 1960, 862 (responsibility of multiple tortfeasors for injuring a person by throwing stones), and BGH NJW 1994, 932 (responsibility of several producers of sweetened tea for the so-called “baby bottle syndrome“).

92 As Markesinis and Deakin point out, “by treating the cluster of theoretically apportionable injuries that cannot as a practical matter be apportioned as though they constituted a single indivisible injury, the law of joint and several liability means that each tortfeasor can be made to pay for more harm that he actually caused”, op. cit., p. 234). It is interesting to note that the Michigan Supreme Court, in Maddux v. Donaldson (362 Mich. 425, at 433), accepted this not only as an inevitable but also as a just consequence when division of liability among tortfeasors is impossible.

93 Sindell v. Abbott Laboratories, 607 P.2d 924 (1980).

94 See supra note 19.

95 Case of the Monetary Gold Removed from Rome in 1943 (Preliminary Question), Judgment, I.C.J. Reports 1954, p. 32. A similar principle had already been developed by the PCIJ in the Advisory Opinion on the Status of Eastern Carelia (P.C.I.J., Series B, No. 5) and by this Court in the Corfu Channel case in 1949 (I.C.J. Reports 1949).

96 In East Timor the Court clearly stated that “it is not necessarily prevented from adjudicating when the judgment it is asked to give might affect the legal interests of a State which is not party to the case” (I.C.J. Reports 1995, p. 104, para. 34).

97 As I have also done, cf. supra paragraph 73.

98 Nauru v. Australia, I.C.J. Reports 1992, pp. 258-259, para. 48.

1 El-Shazly, Nadia El-Sayed, «The Gulf Tanker War, Iran and Iraq's Maritime Swordsplay» (Macmillan Press Ltd., 1998).Google Scholar

2 Walker, George K., «The Tanker War, 1980-88: Law and Policy», International Law Studies, vol. 74 (Naval War College, Newport, Rhode Island, 2000)Google Scholar

3 David L. Peace, «Major Maritime Events in the Persian Gulf War», paper presented at the 82 d Annual Meeting of the American Society of International Law, April 21, 1988, p. 3, cité par Janis, Mark W., «Neutrality», chap. VI de: «The Law of Naval Operations International Law Studies, vol. 64, ed. par Robertson, Horace B. Jr. (Naval War College Press, Newport, Rhode Island, 1991), p. 150 Google Scholar. Le chiffre approximatif de quatre cents est également avancé par Russo, Francis V., Jr., «Neutrality at Sea: State Practice in the Gulf War as Emerging International Customary Law», 19 Ocean Development International Law, 1988, p. 381 CrossRefGoogle Scholar. Wiswall, Seul F.L., «Neutrality, the Rights of Shipping and the Use of Force in the Persian Gulf», 31 Virginia Journal of International Law, 1991, p. 620 Google Scholar, avance le chiffre de cinq cent trente-six attaques.

4 Comp. les informations données par le quotidien Le Monde, sous la signature d'Eric Leser, «Les Etats-Unis ont lourdement arme l'lraq dans les années 1980» (8 mars 2003, p. 4), et par le meme quotidien, le 27 mars 2003, p. 8. Voir encore: Francis A. Boyle, international Crisis and Neutrality: United States Foreign Policy Toward the Iran-Iraq War», 43 Mercer Law Review, 1992, 523-562. Voir aussi les déclarations américaines citées par M. Bundy, CR 2003/5, p. 4 et suiv.

5 En ce qui concerne le rôle joué par la concurrence soviétique, voir en outre Ademuni-Odeka, «Merchant Shipping and the Gulf War», 10 Marine Policy Reports, 1988, vol. 10, n° 3, p. 8-9, qui qualifie l'offre soviétique de «blackmail».

6 1991, p. 623, note 13.

7 F.L. Wiswall, «Neutrality, the Rights of Shipping and the Use of Force in the Persian Gulf», 31 Virginia Journal of International Law, Comp. dans le même sens: Russo (note 3), p. 395-396; W.J. Fenrick, «The Exclusion Zone Device in the Law of Naval Warfare, XXIV The Canadian Yearbook of International Law, 1986, p. 120.

8 Arrêt du 24 novembre 1992, Aff. C-286/90, Anklagemyndigheden v. Peter Michael Poulsen et Diva Navigation corp, Recueil, p. 1-6019, cité par Higgins, Rosalyn, «The ICJ, the ECJ, and the Integrity of International Law», 52 International and Comparative Law Quarterly, 2003, p. 67 CrossRefGoogle Scholar. Le point 13 de cet arrêt rappelle «qu'en vertu du droit international, un bateau n'a en principe qu'une seuie nationalité, à savoir celle de l'Etat dans lequel il est enregistré. II conclut plus loin que pour l'application d'un règlement CEE un batean ne peut être rattaché a un Etat Membre «au motif qu'il présente un lien substantiel avec cet Etat Membre» (point 16).

9 Voir Walker, George K., «The Tanker War, 1980-88: Law and Policy», International Law Studies, vol. 74 (Naval War College, Newport, Rhode Island, 2000), p. 73 Google Scholar; Politakis, George P., «From Action Stations to Action: U.S. Naval Deployment, «Non- Belligerancy» and «Defensive Reprisals* in the Final Year of the Iran-Iraq War», 25 Ocean Development and International Law, 1994, p. 40 CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

10 Affaire relative au Personnel diplomatique et consulaire des Etats- Unis à Téhéran (Etats-Unis à Amérique c. Iran), arret, C.I.J. Recueil 1980, p. 1.

11 «The Persian/Arabian Gulf Tanker War: International Law or International Chaos», 26 Janvier 1988, 19 Ocean Development and International Law, 1988, p. 309-310. Comp. Tod A. Phillips, «Exchanging Excuses for Uses of Force — The Tug of War in the Persian Gulf», 10 Houston Journal of International Law, 1987, p. 275-293.

12 Voir affaire des Activités militaires etparamilitaires au Nicaragua etcontre celui-ci (Nicaragua c. Etats-Unis à Amérique), fond, arrêt,

13 C.I.J. Recueil 1986, p. 115-116, par. 221.

14 C.I.J. Recueil 1986, p. 141, par. 282.

15 Voir notamment: Gann, Pamela B., «The U.S. Bilateral Investment Treaty Program», XXI Stanford Journal of International Law, 1985, 373457, p. 425Google Scholar; Hahn, Michael J., «Vital Interests and the Law of GATT: An Analysis of Gatt's Security Exception, 12 Michigan Journal of International Law, 1991, 558620 Google Scholar. Voir encore: Swaak-Goldman, Olivia Q., «Who Defines Members’ Security Interest in the WT0», 9 Leiden Journal of International Law, 1996, 361371 CrossRefGoogle Scholar. Ce dernier auteur ne cite aussi que des exemples d'embargo, notamment lors de la guerre des Falklands (p. 365-366) ou par l'application du Helms-Burton Act (p. 367-368).

16 Lowenfeld, Andreas F., International Economic Law (Oxford University Press, 2002), p. 764 Google Scholar. Dans le meme sens: Legal Problems of International Economic Relations, Cases, Materials and Text…, 4 th ed. by John H. Jackson, William J. Davey, Alan O. Sykes, Jr. (West Group, St. Paul, Minnesota, 2002), section 21.5, p. 1045 et suiv.; Bhala, Raj, «International Trade Law», Theory and Practice (2 ed., 2001, Lexis Publishing), p. 594604 Google Scholar .

17 Voir par exemple: Higgins, Rosalyn, Problems and Process, International Law and How we Use it (Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1994), p. 240241, 244-245Google Scholar; Virally, Michel, «Le principe de réciprocité dans le droit international contemporain Recueil des cours, vol. 122 (1967-III), p. 5154 Google Scholar; Constantinou, Avra, The Right of Self-Defence under Contemporary International Law under Article 51 of the United Nations Charter (Ant. N. Sakkoulas, Bruylant, Athens, Brussels, 2000), p. 129155 Google Scholar, «A propos des contre-mesures, qui ne sont licites que si elles ne sont pas accompagnees de l'usage de la force*; Bowett, D. W., «Reprisals involving Recourse to Armed Force» 66 American Journal of International Law, 1972, p. 136 CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Robert W. Tucker, «Reprisals and Self-Defence: The Customary Law», eod. loco, p. 586-594; Falk, Richard A., «The Beirut Raid and the International Law of Retaliation 63 American Journal of International Law, 1969, p. 415443 CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Regourd, Serge, «Raids «anti-terroristes” et développements récents des atteintes illicites au principe de non-intervention», 32 Annuaire franҫais de droit international, 1986, p. 88 Google Scholar.

18 A partir de Murray v. «The Charming Betsy», 6 U.S. (2 Cranch) 64 (1804), p. 117-118.

19 Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, «La matière, la forme et le pouvoir d'une république ecclésiastique et civile» (traduit de l'anglais par Philippe Folliot, professeur de philosophie au lycèe Jehan Ango de Dieppe à partir de Leviathan or the Matter, Forme and Power of A Commonwealth Ecclesiastical and civil by Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbury, London, printed for Andrew Crooke, at the Green Dragon In St.Pauls Church-yard, 1651).

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