On July 3, 1988, the U.S.S. Vincennes shot down Iran Air Flight 655, while deployed to protect neutral shipping in the Persian Gulf. The Vincennes, simultaneously engaged in a surface encounter, fired in the mistaken belief that the civil airliner was an attacking Iranian military aircraft. Refusing a U.S. offer of ex gratia compensation, Iran has taken its case to the International Court of Justice (ICJ). The United States raised preliminary jurisdictional objections on March 4, 1991, but given the jurisdictional provisions of the applicable civil aviation treaty, it appears as though the U.S. challenge will fail. Despite its withdrawal in the recent Case Concerning Military and Paramilitary Activities in and Against Nicaragua (Nicaragua Case), the United States will most likely remain before the ICJ to contest the Flight 655 case on its merits.
David K. Linnan,
Iran Air Flight 655 and Beyond: Free Passage, Mistaken Self-Defense, and State Responsibility,
Yale J. Int'l L.
Available at: http://digitalcommons.law.yale.edu/yjil/vol16/iss2/2