Iran slams Britain for seizing tanker off Gibraltar

A report by the Iranian government Wednesday said Britain violated international law this month when it captured the Grace 1 oil tanker, which was taken in international waters off the coast of Gibraltar.

British Royal Marines seize the Panama-registered Grace 1 oil tanker in the Gibraltar Strait on July 4. File Photo British Ministry of Defense/Crown

Iran’s vice presidency for legal affairs issued the report. The British Royal Marines seized the oil banker July 4 on suspicion it breached European Union sanctions by attempting to travel to Syria.

“The European Union’s unilateral sanctions are not binding for countries outside of the EU,” the Iranian report said. “Based on general and fundamental international rights, no country can enforce its extraterritorial laws and regulations.”

The report argued the ship is owned by Russia and sailed under the flag of Panama, making it subject to Iran’s laws.


“Based on these rules, the EU cannot enforce its extraterritorial laws.”

Civil rights NGO Shurat HaDin, which has links to the Israeli intelligence group Mossad, has since approached the Gibraltar Supreme Court about an injunction to seize the Grace 1 and its cargo. The organization said it wants money from the seizure to pay damages for victims of Iran-sponsored terrorism.

Last weekend, a different oil tanker disappeared in the Strait of Hormuz when its tracking device was switched off. Wednesday, Tehran said the United Arab Emirates-based Riah vessel — which was also Panamanian-flagged — was towed to Iranian waters for repairs. Iran Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi promised more details about the tanker at a later time.


The Riah’s disappearance further escalated fears in the region, where a number of oil tankers have been targeted in recent weeks. Iran threatened to target a British ship after the Grace 1 seizure, leading London to increase security. British officials said this week they will send the HMS Kent warship to the Persian Gulf this fall. The move was prompted by the planned withdrawal of the HMS Montrose, which officials said escaped three Iranian boats last week.

ByClyde Hughes