US President Barack Obama supports double standard on sovereign immunity: Lawyer

April 22, 2016 12:00 pm

President Barack Obama departs the White House for his trip to Saudi Arabia, Germany and Britain on April 19, 2016, in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)

An international lawyer and political analyst has said that the Obama administration’s hypocritical position on foreign sovereign immunity exposes US commitment to using its domestic legal system to wage economic warfare against nations which  do not fully embrace the US dominated international system. 
According to Barry Grossman, who is based on Indonesia’s island of Bali, the statutory framework used to impose civil liability on Iran for various conflicts and alleged incidents of terrorism in , occupied Palestine and, most recently, Lebanon, is contrary to international law for precisely the same reasons that the White House expressed opposition this week to the September 11 bill currently before the US Senate.
The US Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled that almost $2 billion in frozen Iranian assets must be turned over to American families of people killed in the 1983 bombing of a US Marine Corps barracks in the Lebanese capital of Beirut and other attacks blamed on Iran. The assets belong to the Central Bank of Iran (CBI), which has been blocked under US sanctions.
Iran strongly condemned the verdict, saying it violates international law.  “The ruling has mocked [international] law,” Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hossein Jaberi Ansari said on Thursday, adding, It “amounts to appropriation of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s property” in the US.
Meanwhile, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who is in New York, said on Thursday that Tehran refuses to recognize the ruling.
“As we [already] said, we do not recognize the court’s ruling and the US government knows this well,” he said, adding, “The US knows this well too that whatever action it takes with respect to Iran’s assets will make it accountable in the future and it should return these assets to Iran.”
Grossman said “These ongoing judgments against Iran and related asset seizures are indeed nothing less than ideologically motivated, state sanctioned theft.”
“The US Supreme Court’s decision approving the seizure of Iranian assets for the benefit of families victimized by the 1983 Marine barracks bombing in Beirut is based entirely on US legislation which, contrary to international law, presumes to eliminate Iran’s sovereign immunity,” he told Press TV on Friday.    
“Few issues more clearly illustrate the Obama administration’s hypocrisy than its position on foreign sovereign immunity.  The Obama administration formally intervened on behalf of the plaintiffs  in the US proceedings which led to this latest  seizure of Iranian assets but, faced with a Bill in Congress that would in effect eliminate existing restrictions on the  unique standing  Congress has already given private US citizens to sue  foreign states in connection with alleged acts of terrorism, the administration has quickly moved to shore up relations with its special ally Saudi Arabia by saying that President Obama will veto the legislation should  it be passed by the Senate,” he stated.
The analyst said “White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said this week that the September 11 bill puts ‘the whole notion of sovereign immunity at stake’ and would amount to ‘rolling back core principles of international law.’”
“In other words, President Obama opposes Congressional efforts to make all nations subject to the same standards under US law by neutralizing the current US legal mechanism which  makes the lifting of foreign sovereign immunity conditional on a political determination by the executive branch that the nation to be sued is a ‘state sponsor of terrorism,’” he added.   
“The president clearly feels that when it comes to accountability, the  sovereign immunity enjoyed by the USA  and its allies must be  respected at all cost while, at the same time, he  fully supports existing US  legal mechanisms which, in contravention of the same principles of international law the administration invoked this week to oppose the September 11 bill, empower the US establishment to  engage in economic warfare by proxy against  nations  designated  by the State Department for ‘special treatment,’” the lawyer noted.
“The ‘Terrorism Exception’ in the Foreign Sovereign Immunity Act is contrary to international law for exactly the same reasons invoked by the White House to oppose the September 11 bill,” he said.
“If the sovereign immunity enjoyed by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Israel, the and their allies is going to be preserved despite Congress passing a Bill that would undermine the long standing status quo in international law, then it is only fit, proper and just that Iran should be put on a level playing field  with the international community at large by eliminating the politically motivated Terrorism Exception in the Foreign Sovereign Immunity Act,  which even the White House now ironically concedes is contrary to international law,” he observed.  
“That Iran is continuously saddled with ideologically motivated, multi-billion dollar damages awards on the basis of some far-fetched and extremely remote connection with the incidents in question, is both absurd and unacceptable. It is time to correct this outrage,” Grossman concluded.
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