Author: Nancy Amoury Combs*
Published: March 1999
Practice and Procedure
Description: In January 1981, Iran and the United States adhered to the Algiers Declarations, a treaty which secured the release of the American hostages who had been held in Iran for the previous fourteen months and which created the Iran-United States Claims Tribunal. The Tribunal was established, among other things, to arbitrate the claims of United States nationals against Iran, and it has disposed of nearly 4000 cases in its nearly 20-year history. Among the most controversial of those cases have been those brought by dual Iranian-United States nationals; that is, by claimants who are nationals of both Iran, under Iranian law, and of the United States, under United States law. In its influential Case No. A18, the Full Tribunal determined that it had jurisdiction over the claims of dual Iranian-United States nationals against Iran so long as the claimant’s dominant and effective nationality was that of the United States. At the same time, the Tribunal recognized the risk that certain dual-national claimants might attempt “to have their cake and eat it too.” That is, they might bring their claims before the Tribunal on the basis of their United States nationality while, at the same time, seeking compensation for property that they had been able to acquire only on the basis of their Iranian nationality. Consequently, in Case No. A18 and in a series of cases decided by specific Tribunal chambers, the Tribunal developed an equitable principle known as “the caveat,” which is an affirmative defense that can justify the dismissal of an otherwise meritorious claim.
*Legal Assistant, Iran-United States Claims Tribunal, The Hague, The Netherlands. J.D., University of California at Berkeley (Boalt Hall). I am indebted to George A. Aldrich, Bruce Combs, Thomas Ginsburg, Karin Green and Sam Hirsch for their thoughtful comments. The opinions expressed, and consequently any errors, are those of the author.