Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law

First Page



As soon as the United States began celebrating the hostages' release, the validity of the agreement became a subject of intense controversy. Conservative commentators urged that the United States "renounce the deal." To them, the Declaration was not an agreement but extortion, and had "the same moral standing as an agreement made with a kidnapper, that is to say, none at all..."

Although it will take years of litigation and commentary to assess the full significance and consequences of the hostage taking and the settlement agreement, some preliminary observations may be made. The Declaration poses many difficult questions of international and constitutional law. Examples of constitutional law questions raised include the power of the President to conclude self-executing agreements and to nullify claims of citizens brought in United States courts. In examining the agreements, this Note will concentrate on challenges to the validity of the agreements under international law. Thus, this analysis avoids such constitutional issues as the President's agreement-making power, except insofar as they relate to the possible domestic consequences of an international treaty, for under international law an unconstitutional treaty usually subsists as an international obligation. In examining the effect of duress on the international validity of the agreement, this Note will consider concepts of coercion under article 52 of the Vienna Convention of the Law of Treaties and article 2(4) of the United Nations Charter. Although the agreement freeing the hostages is separated into Declarations, this Note will consider them as a unit for purposes of testing their validity, because of their interrelationships and their joint origin as instruments necessary to the hostages' freedom. Finally, it will suggest the potential international and domestic significance of a finding of the validity of the Treaty.