Atlas construction cranes abused for executions in Iran
On February 19, 2014, the online newspaper “The Washington Free Beacon” published an article about the German company Atlas, whose construction cranes had been used in public executions in Iran, according to photographic evidence.
The article refers to the organization “United Against Nuclear Iran” (UANI), which had contacted Atlas CEO Filipov and called on him to end business relations with Iran.
Background: “United Against Nuclear Iran” launched a “Cranes Campaign” in 2011 and has since called on manufacturers of construction cranes to stop supporting Iran because of the abuse of the cranes. Several prominent manufacturers have joined the campaign and pledged to end their business with Iran.
The article goes on to report that Filipov told the Washington Free Beacon via e-mail, among other things, that his company does not supply construction cranes to Iran and that he does not know how the cranes got to Iran. According to the article he said he did not have time to deal with the “crazy people” of the United Against Nuclear Iran organization.
After the article became known, the German Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty wrote a letter to Atlas CEO Filipov asking for clarification and calling on him to support the “Cranes Campaign”.
At the same time, the German Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty sent an inquiry to the Federal Office of Economics and Export Control (BAFA). The so-called “Anti-Torture Regulation” requires that means and objects which are used or can be abused for the execution of the death penalty are subject to an export license. After various drugs used for lethal injection in the USA were included in the “Anti-Torture Regulation”, we wanted to find out to what extent the export of construction cranes to Iran is also subject to an export license in this respect or whether such a regulation was being considered.
We did not receive an answer from Mr. Filipov. From the Federal Ministry of Economics, to which the BAFA had forwarded our letter, came after some weeks a letter, to whose answer on our part after months finally another statement came. They wanted to bring the issue to the attention of the EU; however, we should also address the EU ourselves in parallel. So we finally wrote a letter to various representatives of the EU, copies of which were also sent to the organizations Reprieve in England and UANI.
We received answers only from the secretariats of Ulrike Lunacek and Barbara Lochbihler – the latter addressed our concerns in detail and prompted us to appeal to the German government and to issue a press release on the occasion of the International Human Rights Day on December 10, 2015.
After we mentioned the Atlas company in one sentence in this press release, we were surprised to receive a letter from the company’s managing director, Brahim Stitou, in January 2016. Apparently they are concerned about the reputation of Atlas, because they urge us to refrain from making accusations against Atlas regarding the use of construction cranes in executions in Iran, and reproach us for not having contacted them first.
We answered Mr. Stitou accordingly by pointing out that we had indeed contacted Atlas directly at the time and that we had not made any accusations but asked questions – to which we never received an answer. Unfortunately – and we also mentioned this in our reply – Atlas has never distanced itself from the abuse of construction cranes for executions, even in general.
We will keep an eye on the matter and take further steps if necessary.