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US refuses to recognize UN court jurisdiction on Argentina’s debt

Published time: August 09, 2014 17:57
Reuters / Michael Kooren

Reuters / Michael Kooren

Washington has refused to allow the UN International Court of Justice (IJC) to hear Argentina’s claims that US court decisions on the country’s debt have violated Argentina's sovereignty.

“We do not view the ICJ as an appropriate venue for addressing Argentina’s debt issues, and we continue to urge Argentina to engage with its creditors to resolve remaining issues with bondholders,” the US State Department told Reuters in an email.

The State Department sent an email with the same content to one of Argentina’s leading newspapers, the Clarin.

Argentina complained against Washington's decisions on its debt to the International Court of Justice in The Hague on Thursday.

But according to existing norms, Buenos Aires needs Washington to voluntarily accept the ICJ’s jurisdiction for the proceedings to begin.

The US withdrew from compulsory jurisdiction back in 1986 after the UN court ruled that America’s covert war against Nicaragua was in violation of international law.

Since then, Washington accepts International Court of Justice jurisdiction only on a case-by-case basis.

On Friday, US District Judge Thomas Griesa, who oversees Argentina’s legal battle with hedge funds, threatened that a contempt of court order may be implemented.

Griesa said it will be put forward if Argentina continues to “falsely” insist that it has made a required debt payment on restructured sovereign bonds.

The warning caused confusion, as the judge didn’t specify who will face the punishment – Argentina or its lawyers.

It will be quite difficult to sanction the Argentinean state, as US federal law largely protects the assets of foreign governments held in the US, said Michael Ramsey, a professor of international law at the University of San Diego.

"You can't put Argentina in jail, so I'm not sure what he'd have in mind besides monetary sanctions," Ramsey said.

Later on Friday, Argentina's economy ministry issued another statement, accusing the US judge of “clear partiality in favor of the vulture funds.”

"Judge Griesa continues contradicting himself and the facts by saying that Argentina did not pay," the statement said.

Previously, Argentina announced the restructuring of 93 percent of its 2001 debt, but creditors holding the other seven percent of the bonds demanded full payment and initiated a legal battle.

A New York court ruled that Argentina had to pay $1.33 billion to the hedge funds, blocking the transfer of $590 million that Buenos Aires forwarded in order to cover its restructured debt.

The judge said Argentina had to start talks with the lenders that didn’t approve the debt restructuring and negotiate to postpone the payment with those who did agree.

With lenders unable to receive payment, international regulators and rating agencies announced Argentina’s 'selective' default.

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