UN suspends Iran’s voting rights for more than $ 16 million in overdue dues

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Iran blamed its delinquencies on US economic sanctions that froze Iranian funds in banks around the world

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The United Nations on Thursday suspended General Assembly voting rights for Iran and four other countries in response to unpaid dues spanning two years, according to the New York Times.

Secretary-General António Guterres said in a letter to the President of the General Assembly that Iran, as well as the Central African Republic, Comoros, Sao Tome and Principe and Somalia had all violated Article 19 of the Charter. United Nations. The article states that any member of the General Assembly with two years of unpaid dues cannot vote. Iran attributed the unpaid dues to US economic sanctions that froze Iranian funds in banks around the world.

“This decision is fundamentally wrong, totally unacceptable and totally unjustified,” said Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iranian foreign minister and former UN ambassador. Zarif reacted to the event on Twitter and attach a copy of a letter responding to the suspension.

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“It is surprisingly absurd that the Iranian people, who have been forcibly prevented from transferring their own money and resources to buy food and medicine – let alone pay the arrears of contributions to the United Nations – by a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, is now punished for not being allowed to pay budget arrears by the secretariat of the same organization, ”the letter said.

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Stéphane Dujarric, spokesperson for Guterres, said letters to the president of the General Assembly are usually sent following a member’s non-payment of dues after reaching the two-year threshold.

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Previous examples can be found in Venezuela, Yemen and Lebanon, all of which temporarily lost their voting rights in early 2020 for unpaid dues.

Exceptions to Article 19 may be made by the General Assembly due to extenuating circumstances. However, this has not yet happened in the history of the organization.

Currently, Iran owes more than US $ 16.2 million, which is the largest debt among the five countries that were suspended on Thursday.

“This payment will be made soon,” said Saeed Khatibzadeh, spokesman for Iran’s foreign ministry.

Khatibzadeh said the Office of Foreign Assets Control, part of the US Treasury Department, would agree to grant Iran a license to transfer funds to the United Nations from a bank account in South Korea. The bank account in South Korea is among the accounts around the world where Iranian funds are frozen.

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It was reported Canada, Sweden, Ukraine and the UK on Thursday filed a notice of claim against Iran after Iranian Revolutionary Guards shot down a Ukrainian airliner just after takeoff in Tehran in January 2020 All four countries lost citizens and residents in the crash.

“Iran must fulfill its legal responsibility to grant full reparations to the group of states,” foreign ministers of the four countries said in a statement.

Previously Reuters reported that a Canadian court in Ontario ruled on May 20, 2021 on a lawsuit claiming that Iran owes damages to the families of passengers aboard the Ukraine International Airlines flight.

Iran did not participate in or defend itself in Ontario’s legal proceedings seeking damages for the 138 people on the flight who had ties to Canada.

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Iran responded a day later to the Ontario court ruling, according to Reuters the country has said that a Canadian provincial court lacks jurisdiction to adjudicate the damage caused by the Ukrainian passenger plane.

“Everyone knows that the Canadian court has no jurisdiction over this plane crash,” Khatibzadeh said, also adding that the decision “is not based on eyewitnesses”.

No compensation has been awarded by the judge in the case and will be determined at a future hearing, but the lawsuit originally claimed C $ 1.5 billion in damages. The trial specifically named Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader and senior officials of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

One of the lawyers representing the plaintiffs is Mark Arnold, who has previously represented clients in lawsuits against Iran. Specifically, Arnold represented a client against Iran in a 2017 ruling that resulted in the seizure of certain Iranian assets in Canada.

A total of 176 people died in the crash of Ukraine International Airlines.

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