Note: This report has initially written in Italian, and it has translated into English by Google Translate.

Altreconomia: Between 2015 and 2018, during the opening phase of the country to foreign companies and multinationals, many of them signed contracts without properly assessing the human rights situation to do business with Tehran. The warning from the Dutch NGO SOMO, which invites you to treasure past experiences.

If the negotiations currently underway between the US administration, European partners and Iran to give new life to the Joint Comprehensive Nuclear Action Plan are successful and international sanctions against Tehran cease, the country could open up again. to foreign companies and multinationals. An incentive for the Iranian economy but at the same time a situation of potential risk for the protection of human rights. “The last thing we want to see is the same irresponsible behavior we witnessed in 2016, when governments and multinationals turned a blind eye to widespread and well-documented human rights violations and rushed to Iran to satisfy their interests. commercial ”, comments Mohammad Nayyeri, co-director of“ Justice for Iran ”.

The Iran nuclear deal, signed in 2015, in fact provided for the cessation of the economic sanctions imposed by the United States, the European Union and the United Nations Security Council against Iran, in exchange for the commitment to slow down the rush to nuclear power. A path that had suffered a severe setback in 2018, with the unilateral decision of the then President Donald Trump to withdraw the United States from the agreement. But with the Biden administration taking office, negotiations to resume the interrupted path have had a new impetus.

Iran could therefore reopen its doors to foreign companies and multinationals: in light of this fact “it is important to learn the lessons of the past”, warn SOMO ( Center for research on multinational corporations ), FIDH ( International Federation of Human Rights ) and ” Justice for Iran ” which in a recent paper analyzed the potential risks associated with the violation of human rights by companies that decide to sign economic and commercial agreements with Tehran. At the center of the dossier is the case of Italtel, a telecommunications multinational based in Italy, which in 2016 signed a Memorandum of understanding with the state-owned telecommunications company of Iran (TCI) to develop the telecommunications sector in Iran.

But in the country, underline SOMO, FIDH and “Justice for Iran”, the management of telecommunication services is closely linked to political and military authorities; moreover, these services are regularly used to crack down on protests and commit other serious forms of human rights violations. TCI, in fact, is the main provider of internet and mobile telephony services in the country, the three organizations denounce in the “ Under a watchful eye ” report. And since 2009, the majority stake in TCI has been owned by a consortium of companies controlled by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (the so-called pasdaran), the most powerful Iranian military body that “played a crucial role in the repression of political dissidents and civil liberties” both within the country and, more recently, in cyberspace .

Strengthened by its control over the communication networks, on the occasion of the various waves of protest, the Iranian government has repeatedly resorted to restrictions on accesses and interruptions to the Internet network to try to hinder dissent. During the anti-government protests of 2017 and 2018, for example, the government imposed the blackout of the internet and the blocking of major social media services. Again, during the protests of November 2019, the Iranian authorities shut down the internet almost completely for about a week, preventing any form of communication to the outside. The online repression was accompanied by that in the streets and, according to the main international media, it was the most violent repression since the Khomeinist Revolution of 1979: the people killed were,New York Times ).

Within such a critical framework for the respect of human rights, SOMO, FIDH and Justice for Iran presented an appeal before the Italian “Contact Point” of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) highlighting ” the strict control of the Iranian authorities over TCI ”and stating that the Italian multinational“ had not identified the risks of contributing to serious negative impacts on human rights ”. In particular, the report underlines how companies are required to comply with a series of guidelines provided by the OECD precisely to avoid that, with their work, they can become complicit in violating human rights in countries considered to be at high risk. The OECD Guidelines require companies to start assessing these risks even before signing contracts or projects,due diligence by taking extra precautions, implementing a greater number of controls and applying greater transparency to its commercial and relationship activities.

Although the appeal to “contact” Italian OECD has not been welcomed Point (Italtel and TCI have not signed a contract after the signature of the Memorandum of Understanding and this was considered sufficient by the “focal point” for not proceeding) SOMO underlines in its report that Italtel has decided to “re-evaluate its agreement and withdraw some of the services that had previously been offered to TCI”.

“Like Italtel, many other European companies have signed contracts and engaged in the Iranian economy in the period 2015-2018 without conducting due diligence or without adequately assessing the human rights situation as a condition for doing business with the regime – concludes SOMO-. While the Biden administration is evaluating different options to re-enter the 2015 nuclear deal, there is a risk that companies will repeat the same mistakes ”.