Sanctions fail as Iranian police use EU-made shotgun cartridges

Iranian authorities demolish the family home of Elnaz Rekabi

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An investigation has revealed that shotgun cartridges manufactured by a huge European company have been used to suppress protests in Iran – despite an EU sanction explicitly prohibiting their use in the dictatorship. Iranian police even reportedly did their best to hide the fact they were using them, with protesters claiming they spotted them picking up the cartridges off the ground.

The cartridges were manufactured by Cheddite, a French-Italian manufacturer. They have reportedly been used for hunting purposes in Iran since at least 2011, the same year that an EU sanction went into place to prevent their use.

In the investigation, carried out by FRANCE 24 Observers, Iranians were asked to send the outlet photographs of spent ammunition recovered from protests repressed by Iran’s security forces.

Protests have erupted in the country since the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini on September 16 in police custody, with Iranian people desperate to reform extremely restrictive clothing laws. Iran’s security forces have violently cracked down on protesters, including opening fire with live ammunition – but a protester speaking to said they would not back down.

After analysing over 100 photos and videos showing various types of military and police equipment being used, FRANCE 24 found that 13 shells recovered from eight different Iranian cities had Cheddite logos.

According to the EU sanction, passed on April 12 2011, the “export, directly or indirectly, [of] equipment which might be used for internal repression” is prohibited. This includes “firearms, ammunition and related accessories,” with sanctions experts clarifying that the ban extends to shotgun shells and their components – regardless of their intended usage.

Cheddite claims to be the world’s largest maker of empty shotgun cartridges and firing caps, producing more than a billion empty cartridges every year and boasting factories in both Italy and France. The empty cartridges consist of plastic casings and metal bases with a spark-producing primer, which other manufacturers will buy and fill with explosive powder and pellets or other projectiles.

One protester in the central city of Yazd sent the news outlet photographs of a cartridge he recovered after security forces fired shotguns at him and other demonstrators on September 28.

The cartridge he found had “Cheddite 12” engraved on the base, and “Shahin 2017/24” on the green plastic casing.

He told FRANCE 24: “When they shoot at people, they always try to pick up all the empty cartridges on the ground. This one had fallen down somewhere in the darkness. They did not see it, and I was able to find it when they were gone.”

This is reportedly similar to other accounts who have claimed that security forces frequently pick up empty shells from the ground.

One way by which Cheddite-manufactured shells may be making their way into Iran is by selling to Turkey’s Yavascalar YAF, which then sold the cartridges to Myanmar. As Turkey is not a member of the EU, it is not subject to the same sanctions.

Following questionings by Italian NGOs, the Italian foreign foreign ministry revealed Cheddite had requested a license to export 600,000 12-gauge shotgun cartridges to Myanmar in September 2018, but withdrew the request a month later.

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Mehrdad Emadi, an economic advisor for the European Union, added: “Cheddite is legally responsible, whether Iran bought the products directly or from a third party. Cheddite must vet its buyers and ensure that they do not resell the products to terrorist organisations or to countries that are banned under EU rules, as its products are not dual-use, but are designed to injure or kill.”

Patrick Wilcken, Amnesty International’s researcher on arms control and human rights, added that Cheddite has “a responsibility to respect human rights”, adding that the company should “carry out human rights due diligence on its entire value chain.” Mr Wilcken called on the company to “cease supplies if there is a risk of goods being diverted into the hands of serial human rights violators.”

A spokesperson for the EU Commission October 27 confirmed that EU sanctions prohibit manufacturers from supplying arms or ammunition to Iran. has contacted Cheddite France and Cheddite Italy for comment.

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