On March 30, 2023, the International Criminal Court became the second court, after the United Nations World Court (International Court of Justice) in October 2018, to issue a ruling against the US government’s unilateral sanctions on Iran.

The court deemed these sanctions illegal and contrary to the Treaty of Amity, Economic, and Cultural Rights signed between the two nations.

The court condemned the harm the sanctions are causing to innocent Iranian civilians, including the restriction of access to payment clearances, medicine, equipment, food, and tools.

The ruling comes after Iran opened a case in August of 2016 against unilateral sanctions imposed on them by the U.S. government, after U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew from the 2015 international nuclear deal.

As a result of the court’s order, the US government is required to lift all restrictions on payment systems, medical devices, food, commodities, machines, civilian aviation repair licenses and spares to Iran.

This landmark decision sets a powerful precedent for other countries and courts, and strengthens the Zimbabwe Anti-Sanctions Movement’s case in South African courts.

In this case, the Zimbabwean civil society organization is taking on officials of the US government and banks domiciled in South Africa, for discrimination and denying Zimbabweans bank accounts, corresponding banking relationships, loans, foreign exchange services, US dollar notes for trade, financial services in general and payment clearances for the purchase of machines, medical devices, spare parts, and food, without trial.

ZASM seeks a declaratory from the South African courts that prohibits South African banks from implementing illegal U.S. sanctions, overcomplying, or money laundering and anti-terrorism derisking without trial and giving the targeted persons an opportunity to defend themselves before being punished arbitrarily.

This ruling also gives life to the UNHRC report A/HRC/51/33 on secondary sanctions and overcompliance. In this October 2022 report, the UN Special Rapporteur stated that the implementation of secondary sanctions and overcompliance by third parties and companies of third-party countries, out of fear of incurring penalties or criminal prosecution from sanction-sender nations, is illegal and violates human rights when it punishes innocent people and denies them their basic human rights without trial.

The report urges sovereign nations to create laws in their territory to prohibit companies in their territory from implementing secondary sanctions and overcompliance because they harm innocent people.

Written by Rutendo Matinyarare, Chairman of ZASM.


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