A French international lawyer says the European Union sanctions agreed in early 2012 against Iran raise many specific issues regarding their lawfulness under international law.
Pierre-Emmanuel Dupont made the remarks in an article entitled “Countermeasures and Collective Security: The Case of the EU Sanctions against Iran,” which was published in the latest edition of Journal of Conflict and Security Law in June.
He said that the measures, “including an embargo on imports of Iranian oil and the freeze of assets of the Iranian Central Bank, go well beyond those mandated by the successive UN Security Council resolutions.”
He argued that “the EU measures cannot be characterized as measures of retorsion or as sanctions. Rather they are to be regarded as countermeasures. However, characterizing these measures as such raises the question whether it is open to States or regional organizations to take countermeasures in circumstances where the UN Security Council has already adopted measures under Chapter VII of the Charter.”
According to the International Law Commission, a retorsion is “unfriendly” conduct “which is not inconsistent with any international obligation of the State engaging in it.”
He added that the measures enacted by the EU in January 2012, restricting or impeding trade relations with the Islamic Republic, “go beyond mere expressions of disapproval and involve the suspension of the performance of international legal obligations otherwise owed to Iran.”
Dupont then mentioned bilateral investment treaties between Iran and Germany signed in 1965 and Iran and France signed in 2003 as instances showing that the EU measures actually imply non-performance of various international legal obligations owed to Iran.
He also said that the measures taken against the Central Bank of Iran may be deemed to conflict with rules governing immunities and privileges of foreign states under international law and the 2004 UN Convention on Jurisdictional Immunities of States and their Property, adding that the measure also violates Article VIII(2)(a) of the IMF Agreement.
On July 1, under US pressure, the EU imposed a new round of sanctions on Iran’s oil and banking sectors which had been approved by the bloc’s foreign ministers on January 23.
In March, the US administration approved new embargoes on Iranian crude that penalize other countries for buying or selling Iran’s oil. The sanctions took effect on June 28.