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LESSON / DOCTRINE: Government "to prevent clashes", they considered that their task was merely to

"protect the safety of both the hostages and the students. No attempt was made by
State Responsibility the Iranian Government to clear the Embassy premises, to rescue the persons held
hostage, or to persuade the militants to terminate their action against the Embassy.

The U.S. arranged to meet with Iranian authorities to discuss the release of the
Case Concerning United States Diplomatic and Consular Staff in Tehran
hostages; however, Ayatollah Khomeini forbid officials to meet them. The U.S.
(United States of America v. Iran)
subsequently ceased relations with Iran, stopped U.S. exports, oil imports, and
Iranian assets were blocked. Although the militants were not acting on behalf of the
International Court of Justice 1980
State, neither did the State uphold their agreement to protect U.S. nationals. The
militants said they would hold the hostages until the Shah, who was receiving
medical treatment in the U.S., was returned to Iran.
The United States argued that Iran violated the Vienna Convention of 1961 which
stated the Embassy would be protected, as well as the Vienna Convention of 1963
On 4 November 1979, during the course of a demonstration of approximately 3,000
which stated the nationals would be protected while in their country. Furthermore,
persons, the United States Embassy compound in Tehran was overrun by a strong
the 1955 Treaty was in effect, which promoted good relations between the U.S. and
armed group of several hundred people. The Iranian security personnel are reported
Iran and promised protection to its territory and nationals.
to have simply disappeared from the scene; at all events it is established that they
made no apparent effort to deter or prevent the demonstrators from seizing the Iran did not argue its side, instead, they decided to make no response to the Courts
Embassy's premises. The invading group (who subsequently described themselves notices.
as "Muslim Student Followers of the Imam's Policy") gained access by force to the
compound and to the ground floor of the Chancery building. Over two hours after
the beginning of the attack, and after the militants had attempted to set fire to the ISSUE/S
Chancery building and to cut through the upstairs steel doors with a torch, they
gained entry to the upper floor; one hour later they gained control of the main vault. - Did Iran violated the Vienna Conventions of 1961 and 1963 as well as the 1955
The militants also seized the other buildings, including the various residences, on the Treaty?
Embassy compound. In the course of the attack, all the diplomatic and consular - Should Iran be held responsible for the takeover by the militants and to make
personnel and other persons present in the premises were seized as hostages, and reparation to the United States for these actions?
detained in the Embassy compound ; subsequently other United States personnel and
one United States private citizen seized elsewhere in Tehran were brought to the RULING
compound and added to the number of hostages.
The Court finds that Iran, by committing successive and continuing breaches of the
During the three hours or more of the assault, repeated calls for help were made
obligations laid upon it by the Vienna Conventions of 1961 and 1963 on Diplomatic
from the Embassy to the Iranian Foreign Ministry, and repeated efforts to secure
and Consular Relations, the Treaty of Amity, Economic Relations, and Consular
help from the Iranian authorities were also made through direct discussions by the
Rights of 1955, and the applicable rules of general international law, has incurred
United States Charg d'affaires, who was at the Foreign Ministry at the time,
responsibility towards the United States. As a consequences, it clearly entails an
together with two other members of the mission. From there he made contact with
obligation on the part of the Iranian State to make reparation for the injury thereby
the Prime Minister's Office and with Foreign Ministry officials. A request was also
caused to the United States. Since however Iran's breaches of its obligations are still
made to the Iranian Charg d'affaires in Washington for assistance in putting an end
continuing, the form and amount of such reparation cannot yet be determined.
to the seizure of the Embassy. Despite these repeated requests, no Iranian security
forces were sent in time to provide relief and protection to the Embassy. In fact
when Revolutionary Guards ultimately arrived on the scene, dispatched by the
At the same time the Court considers it essential to reiterate the observations it made
in its Order of 15 December 1979 on the importance of the principles of
international law governing diplomatic and consular relations. The Court made a
point of stressing that the obligations laid on States by the two Vienna Conventions
are of cardinal importance for the maintenance of good relations between States in
the interdependent world of today. "There is no more fundamental prerequisite for
the conduct of relations between States", the Court there said, "that the inviolability
of diplomatic envoys and embassies, so that throughout history nations of al1 creeds
and cultures have observed reciprocal obligations for that purpose." The institution
of diplomacy, the Court continued, has proved to be "an instrument essential for
effective CO-operation in the international community, and for enabling States,
irrespective of their differing constitutional and social systems, to achieve mutual
understanding and to resolve their differences by peaceful means."

After stressing the particular gravity of the case, arising out of the fact that it is not
any private individuals or groups that have set at naught the inviolability of an
embassy, but the very government of the State to which the mission is accredited,
the Court draws the attention of the entire international community to the irreparable
harm that may be caused by events of the kind before the Court. Such events cannot
fail to undermine a carefully constructed edifice of law the maintenance of which is
vital for the security and well-being of the international community.