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Interview: Lawyer Seeks to Sue U.S. Over Iran Threats
An American lawyer has offered to represent Iran in an international lawsuit against Israel and his own government in an effort to stop Washington and Tel Aviv from initiating further sanctions against Tehran.
Francis A. Boyle says following Washington's latest ultimatum to Tehran to freeze uranium enrichment within two weeks or face further isolation, Iran needs to act quickly.
At weekend talks in Geneva, the United States delivered what it describes as a "clear and simple message" that Iran must choose between cooperation and confrontation.
In an e-mail interview with Press TV, Boyle urged Iran to begin drafting lawsuits for presentation to the International Court of Justice (I.C.J.) in The Hague before the two-week ultimatum expires.
Precisely what would the charges against the U.S. and Israel be? What are you hoping to achieve?
About two years ago Iran contacted me about a proposal I had made to sue the United States, Israel and the EU-3 (Britain, France, and Germany) at the International Court of Justice in The Hague for their repeated and public threats to launch a military attack upon Iran over its undoubted right under the Nonproliferation Treaty to engage in nuclear reprocessing.
My proposal was that Iran should sue these states immediately, convene an Emergency Hearing by the World Court, and ask the Court to indicate provisional measures of protection on behalf of Iran against the United States, Israel, and the EU-3—basically a temporary restraining order.
I felt that these lawsuits would be able to prevent a military attack against Iran and also prevent the imposition of sanctions against Iran by the United Nations Security Council. In addition, by Iran submitting this entire matter to the World Court, it would make it clear to the entire world who the real culprits are here.
The threat and use of military force clearly violates Article 2(4) of the United Nations Charter. The Charter also mandates the peaceful resolution of international disputes. By filing these lawsuits Iran would prove to the entire world that it intends to resolve this matter peacefully and in accordance with international law.
I notice that just this week Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei publicly stated that he would sue the United States if it attacked Iran. I am proposing that we sue the United States immediately in order to prevent any attack upon or blockade of Iran, which would be an act of war.
Why are you seeking to bring this action in an international court, rather than a domestic U.S. court?
This would be a total waste of time. Based upon my prior experience, there is no way a United States court would rule against the United States government on a matter like this.
You are proposing to represent Iran in a court action against the U.S. and Israel—what are you seeking from Tehran? What mandate would they need to give you? Basically, how would this work?
Of course, if Iran wants me to represent Iran in these lawsuits I would be happy to do so. But given the fact that I am a U.S. national, Iran might prefer to have its own lawyers file these lawsuits. Iran already has a detailed Memorandum of Law from me on these lawsuits. The Iranian lawyers can simply use my Memorandum as they see fit. I would be happy to assist them in whatever way they desire.
The International Criminal Court (I.C.C.) has been in the news recently regarding a prosecution against Sudan's leader, Omar al-Bashir. Explain the difference between the I.C.J. and the I.C.C.
The International Court of Justice deals with disputes between states, which the nuclear reprocessing dispute is all about. The International Criminal Court deals with the personal criminal responsibility of individuals. It has no authority to rule upon or settle disputes between states, which the I.C.J. can do.
The U.S. does not recognize the jurisdiction of the I.C.C.—what is its relationship with the I.C.J.?
The I.C.J. would have jurisdiction to hear lawsuits by Iran against the United States, Israel, and the EU-3 irrespective of the I.C.C.
Israel regularly disregards international court verdicts and U.N. resolutions (the Separation Wall, settlement expansion, etc.). What makes you believe there is value in another court action?
Israel has never been sued at the International Court of Justice—the Wall was only an Advisory Opinion. By suing the United States and Israel together, Iran would make it very clear to the entire world what is really going on here by putting them in cahoots together. As of now the EU-3 are no longer threatening Iran with military force, so I would hold off from suing them at this time. But if they threaten Iran with military force, or support the United States and Israel with their threats, then of course they should be sued too.
Assuming a mandate or commission is given by Tehran for you to represent them, what sort of timeline are we looking at before this goes before a judge, and then a verdict?
Based upon my prior experience at the World Court, it would take a few days to put the papers together and file them. We could get an Emergency Hearing by the Court within two weeks and an Order of Provisional Measures of Protection on behalf of Iran—a temporary restraining order against the U.S. and Israel—within a week thereafter.
I filed the World Court lawsuit for Bosnia against Serbia over genocide on March 19, 1993, had the emergency hearing by the Court on April 1-2, and won the Order for Bosnia on 8 April 1993.
Given the inconclusive results at weekend talks in Geneva and the decision that Iran will be given another two weeks for its final answer, I respectfully submit that Iran should start moving on this process now. The Wall Street Journal has already reported moves for more unilateral, multilateral, and Security Council sanctions against Iran, including a blockade of Iran, which would be an act of war.
At a minimum, Iran should draft the Court documents now, then see what happens after Iran presents its "final offer" in two weeks.
If you achieve positive verdict, how would you expect the verdict to be worded? Are there any sanctions against a state that does not abide by the ruling?
I would ask for Iran to be protected from a military attack by the United States and Israel in the most comprehensive language possible, including a blockade of Iran by the United States, a termination of all threats and use of military force, and of all measures of political, diplomatic, and economic coercion against Iran.
The Order would go to the Security Council for enforcement.
If the U.S. should exercise its veto, then we could try to take it to the United Nations General Assembly under the Uniting for Peace Resolution, where we would only need a two-thirds vote. In any event, this World Court Order would make it clear to the entire world who is right and who is wrong in this dispute.
You have commented on the levels of rhetoric, what influence could this have on any court action?
I fully stand for a peaceful resolution of this dispute by means of diplomacy. But if the United States will not engage in good faith negotiations with Iran, then its and Israel's escalating threat and use of military force against Iran will only make it easier for me to win an Order from the World Court protecting Iran from the United States and Israel and, if necessary, the EU-3
Another timeline question: Assuming this court action is aimed at preventing armed conflict, how urgent is it to commence the proceedings?
Apparently, according to CNN today [Monday], Iran has two weeks to prepare its final answer. That would be enough time to prepare all these documents. If the talks break down after Iran submits its "final offer," then we could immediately file the lawsuits, ask for an Emergency Hearing by the World Court, and request the Orders protecting Iran.
Back in early 1992, President [George H. W. Bush] had the Sixth Fleet on military maneuvers off the coast of Libya planning for an attack and had U.S. jet fighters penetrating Libyan airspace to provoke an attack over the Lockerbie matter.
We filed similar papers with the World Court on behalf of Libya against the United States and the United Kingdom, asking for an Emergency Hearing by the Court. President Bush … then ordered the Sixth Fleet to stand down. There was no military attack against Libya then or later. Those World Court lawsuits eventually led to a peaceful resolution of the Lockerbie dispute between Libya, the United States, and the United Kingdom, which now have normal diplomatic relations. Hopefully the same can be done here by means of these World Court lawsuits.
During an appearance on Press TV's "Middle East Today" program in April this year you requested backing from Tehran for a court action against Israel on charges of genocide against Israel. Has there been any movement, any response? What is the current status?
This proposal is currently pending in the Office of President [Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad. The suffering of the Palestinians constitutes genocide. I am still willing to file that lawsuit if the President so desires. But given the urgency of the situation, and the threat of a terrible war, it might be best to get these nuclear-related lawsuits against the United States and Israel underway at this time then act to protect the Palestinians from Israel later. Of course, all this is for President Ahmadinejad to decide, not me.
You successfully sued Serbia—but in the political atmosphere at the time, Serbia was widely perceived as the "bad guy" and frankly, the pro-Serbia lobby in the United States is insignificant. These cases are rather different, given popular support for Israel in the U.S. You will be representing what is widely regarded in the U.S. as an unpopular or even hostile government against your own country and Washington's main ally in the Middle East.
How concerned are you regarding your professional reputation at home? Potentially, how damaging could this be for you—even with a successful outcome?
Back in 2004, the F.B.I./C.I.A. put me on all the U.S. government's so-called "terrorist watch lists" because I refused to become an informant for them on my Arab and Muslim clients, which would have violated their rights under the U.S. Constitution and my ethical obligations as an attorney.
So I am sure there will be further repercussions. But under no circumstance do I want to see a war between Iran and the United States, which could readily degenerate into World War III.
With all due respect to Iran's leaders, they must not underestimate the ruthlessness and cruelty of President Bush and Vice President Cheney, and their Straussian Neoconservative advisors when it comes to their willingness to use military force against Iran.
We must do everything in our power to prevent a war and obtain a peaceful resolution of this dispute over nuclear reprocessing that in my opinion can be resolved satisfactorily. These World Court lawsuits will contribute towards a peaceful resolution of this dispute between Iran and the United States, which will then order Israel to stand down.
From Press TV.
View the Worldpress Desk’s profile for Chris Gelken.