A Tel Aviv-based civil rights group warned on Wednesday that British satellite
operator Inmarsat could face criminal prosecution if it continued providing its
technology to Iranian oil tankers.
In a letter to Inmarsat, Shurat HaDin
(Israel Law Center) said the company could risk civil as well as criminal
proceedings in US courts if it did not stop supplying its guidance services to
Iranian military vessels and tankers.
Shurat HaDin director and civil
rights activist Nitsana Darshan- Leitner said the warning letter came in the
wake of recent US Treasury Department sanctions against Iranian
The sanctions, imposed earlier this month, identify 58 National
Iranian Tanker Company (NITC) vessels by name. The Treasury Department said that
identifying the vessels would help companies and individuals comply with
sanctions against Iran and undermine Iranian attempts to use NITC front
companies to evade sanctions.
Twenty-eight of the vessels that the
department named appear on Inmarsat’s shipping directory as being in receipt of
the company’s services.
Ahead of EU oil sanctions, NITC “reflagged,” or
registered in other countries, a large number of its vessels to mask their
ownership and so evade sanctions. Many of the ships on the Treasury Department’s
list have been reflagged in countries including Tuvalu in the South Pacific.
However, Shurat HaDin said that this did not affect their legal liability under
US sanctions, because the ships were either under Iranian control or primarily
dedicated to supporting Iran.
According to Jane’s Intelligence Weekly,
the Telecommunications Company of Iran (TCI) is the Islamic Republic’s national
signatory to Inmarsat. Iran’s Revolutionary Guards have effectively taken over
TCI since the Mobin Trust Consortium, a company that the Guards partially own,
won a 2009 tender.
Meanwhile, other documents available on Inmarsat’s
website list TCI as a Point of Service Activation – the company’s term for an
entity that has concluded a contract with Inmarsat for its C or Mini C satellite
system, which vessels use for two-way communication.
In its letter to
Inmarsat, Shurat HaDin said that providing aid to Iran was illegal.
materially supporting Iran’s oil industry, the organization alleged, Inmarsat
was facilitating the Iranian regime, including its nuclear program.
the extent that Inmarsat’s satellite support is utilized by Iran’s military
agencies, Inmarsat is a direct participator in Iran’s terrorist activities and
nuclear weapons program,” the letter read.
Shurat HaDin cited a recent
ruling by the US Supreme Court in the Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project case,
which held that providing any support to a terrorist organization, even for
supposed humanitarian purposes, was sufficient to impose criminal
“The analysis in Holder is no less accurate or binding when
applied to the business activities of a sophisticated sovereign entity that
orchestrates terrorist operations globally,” the rights group argued in its
Darshan-Leitner said on Wednesday that the organization would not
tolerate Inmarsat’s “profiting from the blood of innocent
“Anything short of immediate and decisive action on our part
would be akin to acceptance,” she said.
She called on Inmarsat to uphold
its legal obligations in compliance with US Treasury regulations and immediately
cease its support for Iran.
“It is a simple issue of justice,” she
Inmarsat did not respond by press time to a Jerusalem Post request
Shurat HaDin’s warning comes as other groups have also
stepped up campaigns against Iran’s shipping industry.
US-based group United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) called on Japanese Prime
Minister Yoshihiko Noda to end his country’s provision of sovereign insurance
guarantees for companies shipping Iranian oil.
According to UANI, last
week, Japanese crude carrier Ryuho Maru loaded 1.7 million barrels of Iranian
crude on behalf of two companies, JX Nippon Oil and Energy Corp and Idemitsu