The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has ordered the US to ease sanctions it re-imposed on Iran after pulling out a nuclear deal last year.
Siding with Tehran, it said exports of “humanitarian” goods, such as food and medicines, should be allowed.
The US argued the court had no jurisdiction in the case as it concerned its national security.
The rulings of the ICJ – which is based in The Hague – are binding but the court has no power to enforce them.
It is the main judicial organ of the UN and settles legal disputes between member states. But both nations have in the past ignored the court’s rulings.
Announcing the decision on Wednesday, the court’s president, Judge Abdulqawi Yusuf, said: “The court considers that the United States must remove, by means of its choosing, any impediment (…) to the free exportation to the territory of Iran of goods required for humanitarian needs.”
The Iranian foreign ministry said the decision “vindicates the Islamic Republic of Iran and confirms the illegitimacy and oppressiveness” of US sanctions.
Iran’s economy has slumped since US President Donald Trump ordered that sanctions be reinstated in May. Its currency, the rial, has dropped sharply.
The order calls for a partial easing of punitive measures. It covers medicines, medical supplies and equipment, food, agricultural products and aviation safety equipment.
This is essentially the first time international judges have ruled on what’s been described as a case of “economic warfare”.
It is a provisional measure issued in response to Iran’s urgent request ahead of the second round of sanctions scheduled to be reinstated next month.
The decision could encourage European companies, which ceased trading with Iran for fear of falling foul of President Trump, to reconsider their position, specifically those dealing in the humanitarian items outlined by the judges.—BBC