Compensation for Hostages, Finally — Iranian Hostage Accords Were a Legal Mistake.

India & U.S.

   Finally, the Congress and President enacted legislation that will eventually compensate the U.S. diplomatic and military personnel held hostage for 444 days in Teheran in 1979. This has now  ended a disgraceful period of American diplomatic history. It evidences the newer period of state-sponsored terrorism that we face and the need to protect the rights of victims.

      President Carter signed the Iranian Hostage agreements that prohibited law suits by these victims. These agreements rewarded one of the first major acts of state-sponsored terrorism in the post-war era.  

     Finally, the Congress and President enacted legislation that will eventually compensate the U.S. diplomatic and military personnel held hostage for 444 days in Teheran in 1979.

      Prohibiting law suits was part of the agreement to get our personnel back. President Carter acted under his inherent authority to settle diplomatic claims which is a part of his executive authority under the Constitution.

     For years this was upheld by the Supreme Court and viewed as consistent with historical precedent in settling such claims.  The courts, the President, and Congress refused to recognize the rights of these victims. Things have now changed, finally.

 

     I’ve argued against these agreements for over thirty years in various articles. They were concluded under military duress (capture of the US embassy in Teheran) and in violation of customary international law of treaties and diplomatic immunity. Specifically, Article 52 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties voids coerced and imposed treaties.

 

    This newer international law was subsequent to the  presidential precedents in settling claims during the 19th century and prewar periods in diplomatic history. This was over-looked by U.S. courts. But private litigation pursued. Demonstrating the great importance of aggressive litigators and the judicial system in addressing international issues that the Congress and the President don’t want revisited.

 

     Really glad that this compensation legislation has now been enacted. Long-overdue. Now it has to be actually effectuated under our new financial sanctions legislation, anti-terrorist legislation, and recent judicial actions against foreign financial institutions who violated these laws.

     We are in a new era of ever-increasing terrorism and both U.S. law and international law need to recognize this.

 

…. “36 Years Later, Iranian Hostages Win Restitution — Congress Provides Up to $$.4 Million Each for Time in Captivity.” New York Times (December 2, 2015).

… Malawer. Collection of Essays on the Iranian Hostage Accords.” (Hein 1986).

… Malawer, “Coerced Treaties (Article 52) and the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties.”  Vanderbilt (1970).

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About Stuart Malawer

Distinguished Service Professor of Law & International Trade at George Mason University (School of Public Policy).
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