The Iran-United States Claims Tribunal came into existence as one of the measures taken to resolve the crisis in relations between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the United States of America arising out of the November 1979 hostage crisis at the United States Embassy in Tehran, and the subsequent freezing of Iranian assets by the United States of America.
The Government of the Democratic and Popular Republic of Algeria served as intermediary in the search for a mutually acceptable solution. Having consulted extensively with the two Governments as to the commitments each was willing to undertake in order to resolve the crisis, the Government of Algeria recorded those commitments in two Declarations made on 19 January 1981. The “General Declaration” and the “Claims Settlement Declaration”, collectively “Algiers Declarations”, were then adhered to by Iran and the United States.
Subject-Matter and Personal Jurisdiction of the Tribunal
In accordance with Article II of the Claims Settlement Declaration, the Tribunal has jurisdiction to decide two categories of cases:
First, the Tribunal is competent to decide claims arising out of debts, contracts, expropriations or other measures affecting property rights brought by United States nationals (both natural and juridical persons) against Iran and by Iranian nationals (both natural and juridical persons) against the United States (“Private Claims”).
Under the Claims Settlement Declarations, the Contracting Parties (Iran and the United States) are not allowed to file claims against nationals of the other Contracting Party directly. However, they can file counterclaims against such nationals provided that the counterclaim arises out of the same contract, transaction or occurrence that constitutes the subject matter of that national’s claim.
Second, the Tribunal has jurisdiction to decide certain inter-state claims, including (i) disputes between the two Contracting Parties concerning the interpretation or performance of the Algiers Declarations (“A Claims”), and (ii) “official claims” between the two Contracting Parties relating to the purchase and sale of goods and services (“B Claims”).
Exclusions from Subject-Matter Jurisdiction of the Tribunal
The Contracting Parties have specifically excluded the following claims from the subject-matter jurisdiction of the Tribunal:
(i) any pending or future claim of the United States or a United States national arising out of events occurring before the date of the Declaration related to (A) the seizure of the 52 United States nationals on November 4, 1979, (B) their subsequent detention, (C) injury to the United States property or property of the United States nationals within the United States Embassy compound in Tehran after November 3, 1979, and (D) injury to the United States nationals or their property as a result of popular movements in the course of the Islamic Revolution in Iran which were not an act of the Government of Iran.
(ii) claims arising under a binding contract between the parties specifically providing that any disputes thereunder shall be within the sole jurisdiction of the competent Iranian courts.
Whereas both “private claims” and “official claims” must have been outstanding on 19 January 1981 (the date of entry into the Algiers Declarations) and filed with the Tribunal by 19 January 1982, there are no such requirements and deadlines for the filing of “A Claims” (which deal with the interpretation or performance of the Algiers Declarations).